Photo of a group of people in a dance class

Photography by Brooke Schaal

5 GTA fitness programs that strengthen communities

Working out can build more than muscles. These Toronto-area exercise groups make communities stronger, too

Whether you’re looking for meaningful connection (with a dose of fitness on the side) or to participate in an activity alongside like-minded folk, these workout groups are worth checking out. Read on to learn how these inspiring programs build strong, resilient—and healthy—communities through exercise.

Where to find inclusive yoga classes in the GTA
Yoga often conjures up images of Gwyneth Paltrow types downward-dogging in expensive Lululemon, and that means lots of regular practitioners feel they aren’t represented in mainstream yoga culture. But there seems to be a shift happening. Some studios in the GTA have started offering inclusive yoga classes, made for—and often taught by—people who have felt alienated from them in the past. From chair-yoga to trauma-sensitive workshops, and LGBTQ+-positive and seniors-only classes, options are popping up with the intention of dismantling barriers that have kept many people from pursuing their practice. To get you started, we’ve rounded up six inclusive yoga classes currently on offer in the GTA.

Sports leagues can empower you—on and off the field
Women’s and LGBTQ+-positive teams are popping up all over Toronto and the GTA, and they’re creating a space for deep connections and belonging. By playing team sports like ball hockey, basketball and flag football, women are not just reaping the benefits that come with developing fitness and athletic skills; they’re also seeing some surprising improvements in their everyday lives. Some find new career paths, others develop deeper cultural connections and many enjoy feeling like they finally belong. Click here to read inspiring stories about some of these GTA leagues.

Beyoncé for all—the rise of inclusive dance classes in the GTA
Booty shaking is high on the list of fabulous workouts, but not everyone feels comfortable getting busy on a dance floor full of other people. That’s why Shannon Nigalis started teaching inclusive dance classes at the Dance Annex Studio. You don’t need to know how to dance or have a dancer’s body to take part, and the best part for Nigalis has been meeting so many fabulous people. Read more about Nigalis—and learn about three all-inclusive GTA dance classes—here.

How a single workout led to a brand-new life
This one tells the story of Hashim Al Hebshi, a homelessness advocate and personal trainer who once lived at Horizons for Youth shelter. It was here that he learned about Bootcamps for Change, a social purpose enterprise that provides weekly fitness programming for youth shelters, as well as personal fitness training certification through their Sweatier for the Better Scholarship (#SweatierfortheBetter). Participants also get mentorship and employment opportunities. Read Al Hebshi’s uplifting story here.

Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club gives strength to survivors
Here’s one you don’t want to miss. Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club is an east-end gym that offers training, courses and community support primarily to women and trans folks. Outside the Ring, its recreational boxing program for female-identified  survivors of violence also offers specific outreach to people with mobility issues, new Canadians, Indigenous groups and LGBTQ+ communities. Many program participants feel that Outside the Ring represents comfort and accessibility they aren’t able to access elsewhere. Learn more about Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club here.

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