A leisure centre reported huge success after creating a women's-only area to "overcome barriers" preventing women from using the gym.

Abbey Leisure Centre in Barking refurbished an unused space to turn it into the women's-only gym, which opened its doors on Friday, November 18.

The centre, in Bobby Moore Way, has since reported a 21% increase in female memberships, with almost 200 women joining on the first weekend.

Hasan Romel, contract manager at Everyone Active, which runs the centre, said: "Women do not use the mixed fitness facilities due to religious reasons, confidence and a fear of feeling intimidated, we are hopeful that, [by] having the women’s only gym, we will be able to overcome some of these barriers...Barking and Dagenham Post: The gym is fit with floor-to-ceiling mirrorsThe gym is fit with floor-to-ceiling mirrors (Image: Abbey Leisure Centre)

"The women’s only gym will provide some women with a comfortable atmosphere, particularly those who haven’t used the gym before, and it will enable women to become comfortable with working out in a public space."

He continued: "Barking and Dagenham is a very diverse borough. We have multiple faith groups living and working within close proximity to the centre."
Barking and Dagenham Post: Gym members can use free weights at the facilityGym members can use free weights at the facility (Image: Marcel Grabowski)

Mr Romel said the leisure centre sent a questionnaire to members to gauge opinions on a women's only gym.

"We had an overwhelmingly positive response from that," he said, "and made the decision to build a women’s-only gym without impacting the timetable of the mixed gym.

"Over the opening weekend alone we had 185 women join the gym with a view to using the women-only gym.”

Barking and Dagenham Post: Cardio machines, including treadmills and eliptical trainersCardio machines, including treadmills and eliptical trainers (Image: Marcel Grabowski)

Abbey Leisure Centre is run by leisure management company Everyone Active in partnership with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council.

The women's only gym is open from 6.30pm to 10pm from Monday to Friday and from 8am to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.