The growing amount of outdoor fitness equipment (OFE) placed in open areas in many countries has the intent and outcome of encouraging physical activity among all sectors of the population, especially children and the aged. A plethora of research has proven that regular physical activity contributes both positive and preventive factors for maintaining health, including physiological, psychological and cognitive benefits. Recent studies indicate that environmental designs and policies are much more effective than programmes in terms of sustainability and reaching populations to influence the public’s level of physical activity. Since OFE locations are easily accessible to the users and either free or low-cost to visitors, recognition of OFE locations for encouraging health and community cohesion becomes obvious.
Factors influencing use of OFE facilities include accessibility, perceptions of safety, presence of facilities, events and activities to attend/watch, and maintenance.
Improved fitness is, naturally, the primary goal of installing OFE. An OFE facility with a thoughtful selection of units and layout (possibly coupled with qualified supervision and training programmes and group classes) will cater to a diverse demographic, providing a challenging workout to individuals at every fitness level. Unlike in years past, the selection of equipment now includes not only body-weight resistance machines but also variable plate loaded strength training equipment, plus cardio machines.
Heading outdoors for fitness not only provides you with the benefits that come from fitness in the first place but it also offers you the fun factor that comes from a change in scenery and more variety in terms of activities. By finding an outdoor activity that you enjoy, you’re considerably more likely to accomplish your fitness goals.
OFE facilities promote active behaviour in family members and increase their time spent together, which can help develop a lifelong fitness mindset at an early age. An OFE facility brings fitness into public spaces and gives people, regardless of ability, the opportunity to exercise together.
Estates, schools and municipalities installing OFE demonstrate in a very concrete way that they care about the health and fitness of their residents, but the benefits of a well-planned outdoor gym extend beyond just physical wellness. The OFE facility brings unacquainted people into close proximity with one another. Some equipment is even designed to accommodate multiple users, inviting conversation as individuals work out on the various elements. In this way, the OFE can serve to strengthen community ties. This aspect has important implications for segments of the community more at risk of isolation, such as seniors, children and those with disabilities. In addition, the OFE facility serves as a deterrent to vandalism and other crimes, as public spaces are occupied more frequently and for longer periods of time.
When planning an OFE facility, various factors should be taken into consideration: the size of the space available, the type of layout desired (i.e., a large cluster or pods along a trail), the demographics the gym will serve, and so forth. A relatively small area can serve a substantial number of users with the right equipment selection. For larger areas, the gym can be separated into various zones – one zone for entry-level exercises, one for boot-camp-style workouts, an open space for group training, stretching and other activities, etc.
The equipment should be placed in a visible area with high traffic and easy access. By designing the OFE to fit the specific needs of the community, planners can ensure that the area has a positive effect on the wellness of the community as a whole, and also increase the value of the facility.