General manager Brianne Angus does squats holding a medicine ball at Downsize Fitness in Orleans

Gym geared towards overweight people becomes latest entry into specialty fitness market

As Downsize Fitness makes its debut in Canada, members will find a shared background with the new operators, who’ve experienced the challenges of weight loss firsthand.

As Downsize Fitness makes its debut in Canada, members will find a shared background with the new operators, who’ve experienced the challenges of weight loss firsthand.

Married couple Martin Charron and Brianne Angus and friend Marc Robert have collectively lost more than 400 pounds.

The trio teamed with partner Nicholas Desjardins to open the first Downsize north of the border, located in Orleans, Ont.

Billed as the world’s first overweight-only gym, Downsize is geared to individuals with more than 50 pounds to lose.

Charron said they’d thought about the concept of a gym specifically for overweight people before they became aware of Downsize’s existence.

“Some people can do it on their own. I did it on my own through trial and error — but it’s not fun,” Charron said.

“But when you’re supported in a community where they’re all going through the same thing, and the trainers have gone through it, you feel much more supported than if you’re going to a gym and hoping it’s going to work.

“We know how they feel because we were there.”

The community concept is central to Downsize, which offers in-house and online classes as well as fitness and nutritional support.

There are around 600 different types of exercises in their database which all have modifications, allowing those with a bad back or shoulder, for example, to complete routines safely and comfortably, said president Kishan Shah.

“We design the program and all of the training to go hand in hand so that way it’s functional fitness.

“It’s helping someone live a happier and healthier life,” said Shah, 27, a former private equity investor at Goldman Sachs who has lost more than 200 pounds through diet and exercise.

“You ask anyone with more than 50 pounds of weight to lose, it’s not: ‘Hey, I need to lose those last five pounds or 10 pounds to get in shape for bikini season.’ It’s ’I want to be able to get up off the floor. I want to be able to bend down and touch my toes.

“I want to be able to keep up with my kids or be around for my grandkids.”

While big box gyms remain big business, Downsize is the latest in a growing category of fitness facilities seeking to meet specialized interests and needs.

“The industry is fairly dominated by large players now,” said Graham Longwell, editor of Fitness Business Canada magazine.

“You’ve got a high barrier to entry.

“It costs a lot of money to open a big box gym, it costs a lot of money to run. You need a lot of staff.

“When you have other fitness professionals and small business people who are looking to get into the industry… these niche market facilities are easier to open, they’re easier to operate, they’re easier to get into, especially when you get into looking at franchises.”

Longwell pointed to the diverse slate of specialty programs and facilities that have launched in Canada, including yoga and indoor cycling studios, strength and conditioning program CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness which centres on interval training. One of the fundamental components shared by virtually all of them is the focus on small group training, he noted.

“I could walk into a gym and jump on a treadmill and not necessarily talk to anyone the whole time,” Longwell said.

“When I go to one of these facilities… you’re social, you’re interacting with other people, so that’s a definite attraction.”

But even for those who don’t chit-chat with fellow members while working out, research shows just being in close company alongside those with shared interests or backgrounds can be of benefit.

Work coming out of the U.S. a few years ago suggested older adults preferred to exercise on their own rather than in groups, said Mark Beauchamp, an associate professor in the school of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia.

Yet in his own study published in 2007, Beauchamp said they found older adults actually reported a strong preference of group-based settings — particularly those made up of people their own age — and a dislike of exercising in groups with people much younger than themselves.

As a followup, further data analysis found that both men and women reported a preference to exercise with people of their own gender rather than in a mixed gender setting, Beauchamp said.

Those effects were “particularly pronounced” amongst people who were overweight or obese, he noted.

“It largely ties to the old adage of birds of a feather flock together in that people have propensity or a preference to be with others,” said Beauchamp, who oversees the Psychology of Exercise, Health, and Physical Activity Laboratory.

“We see this in other social contexts, but we see this in exercise classes where people want to exercise with people who are similar to themselves.

“In fact, we have objective data which suggests that when people are exercising in classes that are comprised of people that are similar to themselves in terms of age, they actually tend to adhere more to those exercise classes.”


Just Posted

Tsunami warning for B.C.’s coast is cancelled after Alaska quake

VANCOUVER — A tsunami warning issued for coastal British Columbia was cancelled… Continue reading

Sewage spill shuts beaches along California’s Central Coast

MONTEREY, Calif. — Nearly 5 million gallons of sewage spilled into the… Continue reading

‘Shape of Water’ producer, Christopher Plummer among Canadian Oscar nominees

TORONTO — A Toronto producer who worked on “The Shape of Water”… Continue reading

US, others launch new tool to punish chemical weapons users

PARIS — The United States and 28 other countries are launching a… Continue reading

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

RDC chosen to host 2019 men’s volleyball national championship

Sports enthusiasts in Red Deer will have more to look forward to… Continue reading

Police is still looking for Second World War army passport owner

No one has claimed a rare Second World War German army passport… Continue reading

DJ Sabatoge and TR3 Band kick off Sylvan Lake’s Winterfest 2018

Central Alberta’s youngest DJ will open for TR3 Band kicking off Town… Continue reading

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month