The main floor of Ball State University’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center is pretty quiet on a Thursday afternoon. Four people—three women and one man—do cardio exercises on the machines that line the walls. They walk on the treadmill, use the elliptical, and listen to music through headphones—a pretty typical sight.

But take a trip down the stairs to the weight room, and it’s an entirely new world. First of all, it’s darker than the main floor. Maybe it’s the amount of people in the room, but the space feels smaller, more cramped. A swarm of roughly 20 men crowd the room, some lifting free weights and some using machines. It’s hard not to notice that there aren’t many women.

Madelyn Bitterling knows the feeling. As a Ball State freshman who frequents the Rec Center, Madelyn has experienced being the only girl in the weight room several times. She sometimes feels like she’s being watched. Many people feel like they can’t go to certain parts of the gym without drawing attention to their gender.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get a recommended 75 minutes of aerobic activity a week, as well as at least two days of strength training. A distinction between men and women is not made, yet one trip to the gym, like the one at the Rec Center, makes the separation of genders obvious. Most men are in the weight room, and most women are on the treadmills.

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