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Should the no sleeves rule stay? Evidence-based policy works. Keep the rules

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By: Yifan Yang

If you’ve been to the Pulse, then you already know about the no sleeves rule. According to the terms and conditions of the Athletics & Recreation website, “a full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops, shirts bearing midriff or torn shirts are not permitted.” This rule has sparked a lot of controversy, and many people seem to be confused and frustrated when they first learn of it — myself included.

This prompted me to research how the policy came to be. Starting in the early 2000s, the Pulse implemented the no sleeves rule as a response to a growing body of evidence on factors affecting emotions such as anxiety during exercise.

littleIn 1989, Wake Forest University developed “The Measurement of Social Physique Anxiety,” a scale measuring “the degree to which people become anxious when others observe or evaluate their physiques.” The authors found that revealing clothing negatively affected the exerciser’s sense of security. These findings were supported by various studies following it, including ones led by McMaster’s very own Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor and principal investigator in the Department of Kinesiology. The conclusion based on scientific, reproducible evidence is that people are more secure and more likely to exercise if those around them are dressed in a less revealing way.

Now, this raises the question of what the Pulse’s goal is with respect to their users. Is the goal to cater to already avid gym-goers, or is it to increase accessibility for those who may be new to the gym or intimidated by the environment?

In a previous interview with the Silhouette, Prof. Martin Ginis said,“McMaster has a very lofty goal for getting high levels of participation and attendance at DBAC… they’re not just interested in getting the usual gym rats there… they want people to start [and continue] being physically active.”

Personally, the sea of machines I don’t know how to use and everyone else there seeming to know exactly what they’re doing is intimidating enough. Given the evidence in support of limiting revealing clothing to reducing exercise anxiety, I commend the Pulse for using evidence to inform policy that removes one layer of the barriers that prevent Mac students from active lifestyles.

When I first heard about this policy, I thought that it was completely ridiculous. I did not appreciate feeling that there was an infringement on my freedom to dress how I want to. And yes, I still agree that sometimes, a pit-stained cotton tee is just not what most want to sport after an intense workout. However, I’ve come to understand that this minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for the goal it hopes to achieve. We should remind ourselves that this dress code is rooted in evidence-based policy-making and works towards making McMaster facilities more accessible for those who may feel self-conscious or apprehensive towards the gym. The greater goal is for the McMaster community at large to take strides together towards healthier and more active lifestyles.

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