Feature Article - September 2017
Find a printable version here

Taking It OUTSIDE!

Outdoor Fitness Areas to Get Everyone Moving

By Rick Dandes


If you want to turn your outdoor fitness gym into a fitness destination, Marler said, it only makes sense to offer several key amenities, creating the perfect comfortable space for your users. These include:

  • Shade: This is very important, especially through the hot summer months and for those locations that receive a lot of rain. By providing shade at your park you are encouraging the users not to pause their daily routine due to a light rain or a hot sunny day.
  • Site Furnishings: It is important to have some seating available for your users, whether they are just needing a quick break after a long workout or if they just need to change out their shoes before beginning. Benches and tables can be very useful for park-goers. In addition to seating, bike parking and water fountains are also a plus.
  • Signage: It is important to have signage for both the equipment and the park. You should display signage for each piece of fitness equipment that displays the muscles being worked and also a step-by-step process on how to properly use the equipment. Another option is signage for the park displaying rules and hours of operation.

Because of the way people are building fitness areas along cycling paths, ideally, you should have some bike racks, Mendelsohn suggested. Bicycles are expensive and you don't want people to have to just lay them on the ground. You should have something to set your bike in whether it's locked or not. At least a bike stand while the person stops to do some exercises.

Recycling opportunities are also important. People have water bottles they need to dispose of, or get rid of garbage so have trash receptacles strategically placed where they can easily be seen and accessed.

An overlooked amenity might focus on parents who bring their kids to a park, suggested Mendelsohn. Placing a bench next to an exercise unit, he said, requires a very small footprint. It can be low to the ground and be the safest apparatus out there. Parents and caregivers can then easily have some sort of physical activity while their kids play at the playground or wait nearby.

Lighting is another consideration. Do you want people to be able to use the equipment after dusk, or before sunrise?

Maintenance and Best Practices

For the most part outdoor fitness is very low maintenance, Marler said, "… although regular inspections are necessary to make sure the equipment is in good working order."

As a rule of thumb, she noted, regularly wipe down the equipment and perform necessary inspections to the equipment as well as the surfacing to ensure an inviting experience for the users and a reduced risk of trip and pinch hazards. Depending on where the park is located, this type of inspection may need to be performed more regularly, so be sure to check with your provider to make sure you are aware of any necessary maintenance details to keep your park looking good as new.

"Communities should establish a maintenance program that addresses the details of the fitness equipment and the surrounding environment," Roschi added, "and then schedule regular inspections to keep the equipment functioning and ensure safety."