Feature Article - November 2015
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A Wider Field for Fitness

New Trends Expand the Reach of Fitness Equipment

By Deborah L. Vence

Fitness … Al Fresco

For those who like more variety in their overall fitness experience, using equipment outside might be a welcome change.

One big trend right now is the growth in outdoor fitness equipment clusters and outdoor fitness parks.

"Exercising outside continues to grow in popularity as people look to maximize their time and gain understanding of the benefits of being outdoors," Spencer said.

"Research has shown that people who exercise outside tend to do it for longer periods of time, repeat the behavior more frequently, and are more open to socializing with other people," she said.

"Add to that the benefits of vitamin D from sunshine and fresh air and you have a winning combination. There is a huge emergence of outdoor boot camps, meetups at local outdoor fitness equipment clusters and neighborhood group walks," Spencer added. "We see this continuing with the explosive interest in creating a meaningful outdoor fitness park for adults. It is one of the fastest-growing product categories we offer."

For those who like more variety in their overall fitness experience, using equipment outside might be a welcome change. One big trend right now is the growth in outdoor fitness equipment and outdoor fitness parks.

Three layouts are seen regularly—a trail, a cluster and a cluster installed outside a playground zone.

"With a trail, there is the benefit of being able to augment the cardio part of a workout by walking or ruining the trail in between stations," she said. "Clusters are also popular, and if no option for trail or pathway running exists, the cardio portion can be built into the cluster, preserving the space saving that site owners are desirous of with this type of layout."

Clusters also are increasingly popular installed in a semicircular pattern just outside a play area as it allows parents the ability to supervise their children while working out, rather than just sitting on a bench.

"Our research shows that parents who can get a workout in will tend to stay longer, and people who exercise outside tend to repeat the behavior more frequently, so both children on the playground and parents at the fitness area get the benefit of prolonged exercise," Spencer said.

Unlike an indoor gym where there are hundreds of activities and types of equipment to choose from, an outdoor space generally has between six to 12 pieces of equipment in total. Ensuring that the equipment is chosen to provide a well-rounded workout is critical.

"All too often we see examples where everything is designed to work one part of the body, upper body, for instance, or the design has completely left out balance and flexibility," Spencer added, "which is one of the most important features to actively aging people who want to practice this type of exercise to enhance their balance and flexibility, ensuring quality of life and helping to avoid inadvertent falls."

She shared an example of outdoor fitness equipment used along a trail. The equipment encompasses five stations used to create a host of exercise options that allow for multiple users, the opportunity to add extra cardio using the trail itself, and provide a total body experience with cardio, muscle development, core development, and balance and flexibility work.

"The layout described benefits the user similarly no matter which end of the trail they begin-limbering up the user and warming their muscles before reaching the central aerobic station, then cooling down as they reach the opposite end," she said. The trail is designed to provide a focused station for each area of a well-rounded workout.

Meanwhile, Morelli added that functional fitness and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts continue to gain in popularity as well.

"Gyms are already catching onto the trend, offering members new equipment better suited for the functional fitness and plyometric exercises associated with HIIT," he said.

"The system combines various training zones, including a monkey bar zone, boxing space, battle ropes, suspension training, kettlebells, pull-up bars and more, for a dynamic, high-intensity workout," he said.

In addition, the cross-trainer category is experiencing a lot of growth due to the low-impact nature of the exercise.

"We hear from clubs that they are always looking to add variety to their floors and challenge exercisers with new movements. As a result, new, variable motion machines … are becoming increasingly popular because they allow exercisers to change stride length on the fly and choose the workout that's right for them," he added.