If you’re new to the McMaster community, there are a lot of things to learn. Mac has its own set of standards and rules—some of which may seem more unusual than others.
Among these unusual norms is a rule at the Pulse, the fitness and cardio facility at Mac’s David Braley Athletic Centre. While this portion of the gym asks some fairly standard qualities, among them proper footwear and general courtesy, it also makes another thing clear—no sleeves, no service.
The Athletics and Recreation website states “A full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops or half shirts are not permitted,” adding “sleeveless unitards must be covered by a T-shirt.”
The rule has been in place at Mac since the early 2000s, even before the existence of DBAC. It makes McMaster stand out among other universities. Queen’s, Western and U of T, for example, have no comparable rules.
But what makes it especially unique is how it came to be.
Kathleen Marin Ginis, a professor in health and exercise psychology at Mac’s Department of Kinesiology, explained that the decision to implement the Pulse’s rule was purely evidence-based.
“I would suggest that the use of evidence to inform such a policy is wonderful and a unique thing that they’re doing at the Pulse,” she said.
The athletic centre’s management at the time looked at a body of research and made the decision to change the clothing rules at the gym.
Pulse staff cited a number of studies that suggested people experienced anxiety based on their perceived appearance and the appearance of others exercising around them.
A 1989 study out of Wake Forest University, for example, established a free trial of cialis “social physique anxiety scale,” to assess the degree to which people were uneasy when they felt others were evaluating their bodies. Findings suggested that certain elements of a workout environment—among them, clothing—affected people’s sense of insecurity.
Further research, some of it done in Marin Ginis’ own lab at McMaster, confirmed the study’s findings, suggesting that people were more comfortable and thus more likely to work out if people around them were dressed in a less revealing way.
“The results tend to be consistent,” she said. “When you’re talking about new exercisers—it freaks them out.”
And this is exactly the problem DBAC is hoping to combat.
“McMaster has a very lofty goal for getting high levels of participation in athletics and attendance at the DBAC and is something I know athletics takes very seriously,” said Marin Ginis.
“They’re not just interested in getting the usual gym rats there…they want people to start being active, and to continue being physically active… if it can be as simple as telling people not to wear tank tops in the gym, then why wouldn’t we do that?”
While it’s not a foolproof measure, and the gym staff are not meant to be “wardrobe watchdogs,” staff suggest that the outcomes are worthwhile, and that it results in a more welcoming workout environment.