I recently heard about a gym that focuses on exercise for mental health rather than to change one’s body composition. It’s called Revocycle, and it’s in Portland (surprise!) and was founded by Michael Hosking. Dr. Hosking suffered from severe, debilitating, mental illness for years. He tried drug after drug, and nothing helped. Eventually he started riding his bike, ever so slowly. Cycling was an activity he had once enjoyed, but he hadn’t touched his bike in ages while struggling with depression.
He began to feel better with the cycling, and continued doing it. He ultimately stopped all medications, and came out of his depression through exercise.
He dove into the research and found many new studies (newer than his med school days) starting to demonstrate the mental health benefits of exercise.
Eventually he started a gym to focus on fitness for this aspect. Their website provides:
“We’re about exercise for health and happiness, for stress relief and mental health. Our focus is on how movement makes you feel. At Revocycle we ban all talk of bodies, weight loss or calories burned”~ Revocycle
In the interview I listened to, Dr. Hosking said that some people cried when he told them that there would be no talk weight loss and calories burned at the gym.
I know many people who do not feel comfortable going into most gyms because they do not feel welcome. On one hand, I think that everyone still needs to find a way to exercise that they feel comfortable with (or to go for fitness and ignore the fact that it doesn’t feel comfortable). However, I also think business owners are doing a favor by catering to different people, and in creating environments that will feel wonderfully welcoming to some people who feel alienated from the more common gym model.
Perhaps they have succeeded in attracting customers who wouldn’t otherwise exercise, or who wouldn’t exercise in a group environment. It is very intriguing, as is his story.
Side[ish] note: I have spent time considering how to make gyms more welcoming with no great ideas. I am intrigued by the mission statement of this particular gym, but I wonder if they have really done it? I wonder how many people feel comfortable there that do not at other gyms? They do have a class called ‘RevoSculpt’ which seems to go against the mission statement above and focus explicitly on body shape. Based entirely on the website, it looks like the gym takes huge inspiration from SoulCycle, but for people who like yoga and meditation rather than a party on the bike. Not bad, but I do question whether the model is truly achieving the stated objective.