Peter Dejong  /  AP
"There are things that you like to do, and for a nudist, it just feels better to do them with your clothes off," said Ron van der Putten, left, who drove for more than an hour to take part in the first nude session at a Dutch gym. "You feel more free."
updated 3/5/2007 1:51:14 PM ET 2007-03-05T18:51:14

A dozen middle-aged and elderly men were game enough for a Dutch gym’s invitation to work out nude. But they were vastly outnumbered by the dozens of journalists watching them lift, row and cycle in the buff.

Fitworld owner Patrick de Man allowed the media in for the first session of “Naked Sunday” after receiving inquiries from as far away as Russia and Australia.

The response from nudists was more lukewarm.

A smattering of men trickled in and out throughout the day at the gym in the small town of Heteren, 60 miles east of Amsterdam. They found the exercise room packed with photographers, TV crews and reporters who jostled for interviews and pictures while the nudists hit the machines and free weights.

“We already had naked swimming ... but a gym, that’s unique,” said one white-haired bespectacled man, who gave only his first name, Henk.

“It’s spectacular!” he said, as he pedaled away.

A few local politicians and a nudist tourism company also watched. There was no group aerobics or naked instructors. Staffers wore aprons with a nude body painted on.

De Man thought there might be interest in nude exercising after two of his regular customers asked why he had separate dressing rooms for men and women. He said he expected a bigger turnout next Sunday, especially after all the publicity.

'Do it at home'
Although the Dutch Federation of Naturists endorsed the idea, most of its 70,000 members said in a poll they would rather hike or garden than go the gym in the nude.

No women showed up for “Naked Sunday,” even though eight were among the 100 people who had signed up for the event.

“It’s always the same — the first ones to shy away are the women. You see that at nudist camps too,” said Henk.

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The Netherlands is known for its relaxed sexual attitude. Women often go topless on beaches, nudity is common on television. Prostitution is legal in designated areas.

But some people in the town of 5,100 were upset by “Naked Sunday,” and some gym members worried about sanitation.

“Unbelievable that you guys came up with this idea,” wrote one visitor to the club’s Web site who said he would be switching gyms. “Okay that there are people who want to exercise bare naked, but do it at home and not in a public place.”

Councilman Frits Witjes, who cut a ribbon for the event, said the town government supported the idea because it promoted fitness and nudists have a right to freedom of expression.

“Some people are happier about it than others,” Witjes said.

Nude exercisers were required to put towels down on weight machines, use disposable seat covers while riding bikes and disinfect the equipment.

“There are things that you like to do, and for a nudist, it just feels better to do them with your clothes off,” said Ron van der Putten, who drove for more than an hour for the event. “You feel more free.”

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