June 17, 2010; Source: NPR | We all have our own reasons for failing to go to the gym to get and stay healthy, and not being motivated enough isn’t always the reason why people shy away from exercise. Sometimes it’s because memberships are too costly or gyms aren’t conveniently located, especially for people living in low-income communities.

According to National Public Radio, a nonprofit gym in Boston, which offers affordable rates and first-class equipment and programs, is helping community residents collectively do battle against bulging waistlines and teaching them healthier eating habits. Healthworks is attracting people like 36-year-old Tamica Toney, who has shed 82 pounds in less than a year. Toney comes to the gym Monday through Friday and runs 3 miles a day—for the first time in her life.

For Mary Shaw, 51, the gym answers her need for a safe place to exercise. Before HealthWorks, she was too frightened of crime and traffic to exercise outdoors. “So many people here are obese and they want to walk and it is really unsafe,” Shaw says.  Shaw, who also lost her job about a year ago, cleaning Amtrak trains, also appreciates the fact that she’s only charged $10 a month. Membership fees are based on income, and the most anyone pays is $30.

Bill Walczak, CEO of Codman Square Health Center, helped launch the nonprofit facility by raising money for it. Other backers are five for-profit Healthworks fitness centers in the Boston area. Even though memberships in those gyms are triple the fee for the nonprofit branch, the Codman Square Healthworks offers the same type of equipment and classes. Says Walczak, “In middle-income communities there’s somehow an expectation that you’re going to have access to gyms. When you’re in a low-income community that stuff doesn’t exist.”—Bruce Trachtenberg