Feature Article - November 2007
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Survival of the Fitness

Adapt to Evolving Fitness Trends and Demographics—or Be Left Behind

By Kelli Anderson

Making the Grade
Introducing Schools to Kid-Friendly Equipment

According to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, strength training is the best form of exercise for middle school children in our nation's battle against childhood obesity.

Eager to climb aboard the fitness bandwagon to help its students, Wauconda Middle School in Wauconda, Ill., installed fitness equipment in April 2007 designed to address the special needs of younger users.

"I definitely think the equipment has already made a positive difference on our students," said Jaime Weber, physical education teacher for the school. "They are excited when it is their day, and if we can get them excited about fitness, just maybe they will make the choice to be physically active outside of school."

Changes in the equipment to make it more kid-friendly include no necessary seat adjustments, saving time as each student can just get on and go; a resistance band system, easier for kids to use than injury-risking weight stacks; and overall smaller size (read: non-intimidating), allowing users to enjoy a better fit and supervisors a clearer line of sight.

"One of our goals for the fitness room is for our students to gain familiarity with a variety of fitness equipment that is transferable to experiences outside of school," Weber explained. "This equipment does just that. Our students get the opportunity to perform the same exercises seen performed in other fitness facilities on equipment tailored more for the inexperienced user."

Earlier exposure to such good habits is clearly beneficial for users and the fitness facilities in their future. It's a win-win.

Better by design

This aging demographic's growing presence also is affecting the way interior spaces within facilities are being designed. It is not unusual, for example, for older members—or those simply intent on improving their health—to be uncomfortable watching their reflection in mirrors as they exercise. Nor do they typically want to be on display for others to watch, prompting a design challenge—how to offer them privacy when the overall design trends are embracing openness and transparency.

"Not everyone is as comfortable with their bodies," said Curtis Moody, FAIA, principal with Moody-Nolan Inc., a multiple-award-winning architectural firm. "You have to allow for privacy. You don't have to seal off areas with walls—you can do it with low partitions, or you can do it using mezzanines up high."

The Ohio State University Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC) fitness facility, designed by Moody-Nolan Inc. offers one such example of running tracks on a mezzanine level where runners can exercise in the open environment but up and out of sight from users located below.

Changing areas, too, in the form of family changing rooms, cater to those with a need for privacy. Such spaces not only provide a place where older patrons might want to change in privacy, but these spaces are ideal for the privacy needs of families with small children and for those with disabilities