Views: 11 Author: Bettaplay -Silvia Publish Time: 2017-04-18 Origin: Site
How to build the outdoor fitness equipment
Emerging science suggests that exercising outdoors increases the overall enjoyment of working out, as well as increasing the frequency and length of time spent exercising,
Over the past five years, outdoor fitness parks have emerged as a popular alternative to the traditional gym, touching down in major cities such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles and slowly muscling their way into smaller communities at parks, schools, even fitness clubs. The City of San Antonio has been especially proactive in this area, installing fitness stations in more than 30 of its parks since 2010 as part of a citywide fitness initiative. "The user traffic has increased a lot since the initial openings," says Sandy Jenkins, parks project manager with the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. "We would very much like to expand the fitness equipment into additional parks and continue to seek opportunities to do so."
For parks and recreation organizations that haven't explored the concept yet, there's no excuse not to get started. Here are the main considerations to help put a project in motion:
Outdoor fitness equipment has been around for more than 40 years, starting with Parcourse-style
systems such as Fit-Trail — static pieces of equipment such as chin-up bars, parallel bars, sit-up
stations and benches typically spaced out along a recreational trail. With no moving parts, such
systems tend to be easy to install and maintain, though they might not pique the interest of users
quite like newer equipment options.
The concept of the outdoor "gym" — fitness equipment gathered into one space — has really caught
on only within the past few years. Such equipment is more typical to that found in a fitness center
and includes items akin to elliptical machines, recumbent cycles or lat pulldown machines — powered
by the user, not a cord. "Body-weight resistance units are currently very popular," says Allison Abel,
marketing manager for Greenfields Outdoor Fitness. "These types of units can be used by anyone,
regardless of age or level of physical conditioning. Some units employ adjustable resistance as well,
so that the user can tailor the workout to his or her own abilities."
As the popularity of fitness parks has increased, so have the options for purchasers. Manufacturers offer
an increasing array of product features, including equipment specifically designed for use with wheelchairs,
as well as equipment that can be adapted for both able-bodied users or those with assistive devices.
Within its 30-plus installations, San Antonio's parks department has experimented with a few different styles,
including Playworld Systems' Energi, Health Trail equipment by Play and Park Structures and Health Beat Outdoor
Fitness Systems. Each system offers different advantages that appeal to different users, says Jenkins. "We wanted
to maximize usage by different demographics and ability levels."
Whatever features an organization is considering for its fitness park, make sure the basics are covered, says Devine.
"Make sure the equipment aligns for total-body fitness. A well-rounded fitness program includes four elements of
fitness: aerobic, muscle fitness, balance/flexibility and core. When selecting equipment, choose at least one piece
in each of these four areas."
Will the equipment be installed along a walking trail or pathway, or will it be in a cluster in one
area in the park? How much space is available? Is there room to add additional equipment? "
Many units are built to accommodate multiple simultaneous users, so that you can have 12
to 15 people exercising in about 900 square feet," says Abel. As with indoor fitness equipment,
there should be enough space between pieces that users don't feel crowded.
"Best practice is to put the equipment clustered together in a visible location, which deters vandalism,
as it will be more frequently used," Abel says.
Placing equipment in one specific area also encourages community and socialization. "We have stations
placed around trails and centrally located," says Jenkins. "The centrally located equipment lends itself
to being able to have several people using the equipment at one time with an instructor."
Proximity to parking is also important. The easier equipment is to access (and the less walking involved
after a workout), the more likely it will be utilized.
While such arrangements allow parents to set a good example for their children, special care should be
taken to keep the two zones — and their purposes — distinct, either through use of different types or
designs of safety surfacing around equipment, or using plants or shrubs to create a divider between the
fitness and play areas.
For the most part, outdoor fitness equipment costs much less than a playground system. noting
that additional components can be purchased individually and installed as funding allows, but a
strong base setup is a must.
Consideration must be given to the cost of preparing the site of a fitness park, as well.
"The cost varies and depends on number and type of units selected, landscaping and surfacing," says Abel,
adding that some of these costs can be mitigated. "We've installed units on the concrete pads of former
tennis courts and shuffleboard courts. The equipment is perfectly suited to revitalizing an unused space."
As for maintenance, outdoor fitness equipment is designed with weather in mind, just like traditional playground
equipment, requiring few ongoing maintenance costs. "We recommend periodic visual inspection of the units to
make sure all is in working order," says Abel, a task often taken by the users themselves. "Communities seem
to value the equipment and overall take pretty good care of it."
Devine suggests a more thorough yearly inspection, as well, keeping a detailed set of records for all inspections.
"The hardware should be checked for tightness, and all parts should be checked for rust or paint loss and touched
up as necessary."
Whatever type of fitness equipment is chosen, the most important factor in its success is making
potential users not just aware of its existence but also familiarizing them with its use.
"When examining options, make sure the equipment comes with clear, easy-to-follow instructional
signs," Devine says. "Ideally, each sign should have two to three short instructions for the exercise
and a visual graphic of the exercise, as well as identify which muscles are engaged."
Many equipment lines also offer QR codes, a feature the San Antonio parks department is working on.
"The comment that I have heard the most is that people want equipment that is easy to use and not
complicated," says Jenkins. "We're working on a video that will be able to be accessed with QR codes
located at the equipment to provide instruction on the proper use of equipment."
Offering classes or tutorials during the weeks after a fitness station's grand opening, when interest is
at its highest, is also a good way to get users of all levels comfortable with the equipment, but instruction
shouldn't end when the excitement has worn off. In San Antonio, the fitness parks are part of an ongoing
citywide fitness initiative, says Jenkins. "We offer Fitness in the Park instruction and use the equipment to
teach people how to work out for free, which has kept the equipment in use on a regular basis."
For a more comprehensive guide to outdoor fitness equipment best-practices, check out Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks:
Best Practices for Promoting Community Health by Increasing Physical Activity, developed by PlayCore in conjunction
with various fitness industry professionals and organizations