Too many exercise programs don’t feel inclusive enough. Enter these A+ options.
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These inclusive workout apps and videos are designed to help people find more joy in movement.
In the past year and change, movements like Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and Health at Every Size have successfully brought the idea of inclusivity into the heart of the mainstream. And suddenly, every brand is marketing themselves as inclusive. But while the push for a more inclusive culture is undoubtedly a good thing, there’s a problem: Most brands (and the people who run them) aren’t actually doing the work.
This empty promise of inclusivity is particularly pronounced in the fitness industry. Gyms and streaming apps tout themselves as inclusive and body-positive, but don’t actually make accommodations for all body types and ability levels.
Sure, popular at-home exercise bikes and other equipment may have diverse instructors, but they often have height and weight limits that leave out groups of people. Yes, your local fitness studio might say it’s “for everybody,” but do instructors include appropriate modifications for people of various ability levels?
Joy Cox, an activist and researcher who studies the intersections of race, body size, accessibility and health, said that most fitness apps and programs “set restrictions around how movement is defined and what counts as exercise.”
In an effort to make fitness more accessible to everyone, she and co-founder Bunmi Alo developed Jabbie, an identity-inclusive, body-affirming app that encourages people to move their bodies in their own way. While the app doesn’t stream video- or audio-guided workouts, users can join “troupes” alongside others with similar movement interests and find community through themed challenges.
And if you’re looking for a fitness app or online community that does offer guided workouts while also encouraging you to come as you are and move as you’re able, here are a few other truly inclusive and body-positive options.
Joyn is an app that focuses on joyful movement. Most of the workout videos range from 10 to 40 minutes, and the types of movement offered include dance, yoga, high-intensity interval training, pilates, stretching and tai chi. There are movement patterns that can be done standing, sitting or laying down. Instructors represent a range of different identities and body sizes, and the messaging is fat-positive and affirming.
Cost: Free for one month, then $10 per month.
Yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley has long been a leading voice in the fat-positive yoga community. Her app, The Underbelly, offers a range of yoga videos — some are full flows, others focus on working up to just a single pose. There’s an emphasis on props and modifications, and the focus is on doing what feels good for your body in the moment.
Cost: three day free trial, then $10 per month.
Personal trainer and barre instructor Lauren Leavell live streams four workouts per week on her Mighty Network (an online community platform that hosts videos, schedules events and allows users to chat on forums) page, Leavell Up Fitness. Members also get access to the recordings of all previously streamed workouts, which range from barre to stretching to HIIT. Leavell’s live classes have a community feel, but her instruction style is all about doing what’s right for you as an individual.
Cost: Starts at $40 per month, but partial and full scholarships are available.
Oftentimes, even relatively inclusive fitness apps and classes aren’t accessible to people with disabilities. Kakana is the exception — it’s made specifically for folks with limited mobility. Many of its instructors lead classes from their wheelchairs, and daily livestreamed classes range from yoga to cardio boxing to crosscycle, which is like a small spin bike for your arms.
Cost: Free for one week, then $15 per month.
Louise Green, known as Big Fit Girl, is a personal trainer and writer who champions a weight-neutral approach to fitness. Her app is appropriate for people with a wide range of ability levels — some of the video workouts are designed to be done in a chair — and at a variety of intensity levels.
Cost: Free for one week, then $10 per month.
A personal trainer and pole dancing teacher, Roz Mays has built a following with high-energy workout videos and an unapologetically fat-positive message. Members of her Patreon get access to a library of workout videos, including a new video every month, plus live stretch classes and weekly “pep talks.”
Cost: $20 per month.
Dianne Bondy has been part of the yoga community for over 20 years, and as an instructor she’s committed to helping students practice in whatever way is best for them and their body. Her online platform, Yoga for Everyone, has hundreds of videos featuring yoga flows led by herself and other instructors, plus a few non-yoga videos (including a boxing workout with Green, whose Big Fit Girl app we just talked about).
Cost: Free for two weeks, then $15 per month; for those who can’t afford a membership, there are lots of free videos on Bondy’s YouTube channel.
There are countless free workouts available online. But of course, not all of them celebrate body diversity and movement for everyone. If YouTube is your workout app of choice, then check out The Fitness Marshall, a channel by Caleb Marshall that has over 3 million subscribers. The videos are dance workouts featuring Marshall and other dancers, and they showcase a range of body sizes. There are also modifications offered based on your fitness levels.
Cost: Starts at $5 per month, and there are shorter dance videos available for free.