How to Upgrade Your Outdoor Sports and Fitness Center
From upgrading existing equipment to expanding your fitness offerings, there are plenty of outdoor gym design opportunities to take advantage of. Our guide to outdoor sports center design offers inspiration for updating and revitalizing your outdoor fitness center to attract new users.
Upgrade Your Equipment
Whether you’re a gym owner or a parks and recreation manager, you may be wondering whether your outdoor fitness equipment needs an upgrade. Fitness enthusiasts have enjoyed outdoor fitness parks for decades, yet many of these fitness centers are in need of an upgrade to keep up with changing equipment technology.
Compared to indoor equipment, outdoor fitness equipment has special care and maintenance requirements given its ongoing exposure to the elements and its heavy public use. Outdoor equipment is exposed to heavy UV sunlight that causes fading, and cold weather can also create cracks and chips in the paint and wear down equipment bearings.
If equipment is outdated or not modern, it can create barriers to usability, meaning customers will be less motivated to work out. Therefore, it’s important for gym owners and operators to keep up with fitness trends and the demands of fitness enthusiasts.
If you’re wondering whether your fitness equipment needs an upgrade, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I providing the best possible outdoor fitness experience with my current equipment?
- Is my equipment up to date with modern outdoor fitness offerings?
- What is my local competition offering to customers that my fitness center is not?
- How much am I spending to fix and maintain my current equipment?
The answers to these questions will help you determine whether it’s a good business investment to upgrade your outdoor fitness equipment. Because this equipment is a significant capital cost, it may be wise to roll out new equipment in stages. By adding new machines every few weeks or months, you can keep users engaged and coming back while also preserving cash flow.
Design for All Ages
Sports and physical fitness are for everyone, so outdoor gyms and fitness centers should cater to members of all ages. There’s a common misconception that fitness is reserved for younger people and that as adults age, their physical activity requirements decrease. According to the American Heart Association, this is not the case.
All adults need the same amount of physical activity, regardless of age. Adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. However, what constitutes moderate intensity changes with age. Adults can calculate their personal target heart rate zone based on the maximum heart rate for their age. In addition to weekly cardio activity, adults of all ages should also incorporate two strength training sessions per week that target each major muscle group.
Despite the lifetime importance of physical activity, research shows that an estimated 80% of U.S. adults don’t receive sufficient exercise. To curb this trend, city planners and public health experts have begun advocating for the design and installation of public multi-generational fitness parks in outdoor gyms and sports centers in communities across the country.
Multi-generational fitness parks are designed to accommodate people of all ages, from children to older adults. Fitness park equipment encourages people to stay active while increasing social connections among families and community members.
Unlike typical children’s parks, the equipment at a multi-generational fitness park is designed to accommodate the adult body. Though the equipment itself may resemble typical playground equipment with bright colors and interesting shapes, it’s actually wide enough for adults to safely use. A multi-generational fitness park will have standard playground equipment like slides, seesaws and swings that are big enough for adults. Additionally, these parks also provide a variety of cardio and strength-building equipment that allows families to exercise together.
Some of the top types of all-ages outdoor fitness equipment include:
- Support bars and platforms for squats and lunges
- Overhead bars for pull-ups
- Benches or half-walls for push-ups
- Leg press machines
- Overhead press machines
- Elliptical and cycle machines
In addition to strength building and cardio equipment, many multi-generational fitness parks are also home to obstacle courses. Catering to users of all ages, obstacle courses encourage aerobic exercise while also providing a fun way to work on balance, coordination and mobility. Obstacle courses promote friendly competition among friends and family members and bring together people of all ages to enjoy the space.
Include Equipment for Multiple Ability Levels
Just as your outdoor fitness park can cater to families and encourage social well-being, you can also install outdoor fitness equipment that’s inclusive of people of all ability levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four U.S. adults lives with a disability. These disabilities include:
- Mobility: Serious difficulty or inability to walk or climb stairs
- Cognitive: Serious difficulty with cognitive skills like concentration, decision-making and memory
- Independent living: Difficulty performing daily activities, like exercise, without support
- Hearing: Deafness or difficulty hearing
- Vision: Blindness or difficulty seeing
Adults with disabilities are at a higher risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes. One of the possible contributors to poor health outcomes in adults with disabilities may be the barriers this population faces when it comes to getting enough physical activity.
Less than half of adults with disabilities report engaging in cardio exercise, according to national survey data from 2017. However, physical activity guidelines are for everybody, regardless of ability. Adults with disabilities also need to achieve the threshold of 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity cardio exercise to prevent chronic disease.
Unfortunately, many adults with disabilities may find themselves deterred from conventional approaches to physical activity, such as gyms, exercise classes or sports due to these forms of activity not accommodating disabilities.
Outdoor fitness parks and sports centers provide the perfect opportunity to encourage participation from adults with disabilities due to having more space and availability to install modified equipment. Some adaptations or modifications that can make equipment accessible to those with disabilities include:
- Wheelchair-accessible exercise machines and benches
- Support bars that provide stability for those with motor function impairments
- Visual diagrams that offer simple instructions on how to safely use equipment
- Audio or braille instructions to accommodate people with limited vision
It’s also important to include a variety of equipment that allows users to work all major muscle groups. For wheelchair users, this means including wheelchair-accessible equipment for the upper body, including:
- Shoulder press
- Chest press
- Lat pull-down
- Tricep press
- Bicep curls
In addition to accommodating adults and children with disabilities, fitness centers can incorporate other considerations into their outdoor gym design to accommodate various levels of fitness. Some ways to ensure your equipment serves multiple ability levels include:
- Ensuring all equipment has a low- or zero-weight starting resistance
- Installing equipment with assistance modifications, such as assisted pull-up or tricep dip machines
- Selecting equipment that’s easy and intuitive to use
- Providing equipment with multiple progressive levels of resistance to facilitate heavy strength training
Keep It Clean
Public fitness centers experience ongoing use, so it’s important to keep up with routine cleaning and maintenance. Regular cleaning and preventive maintenance of gym equipment and facilities can:
- Extend equipment longevity
- Keep equipment functioning properly and safely
- Protect users from exposure to harmful microbes
- Ensure adherence to health and safety standards
Outdoor gym owners and managers should follow routine cleaning and maintenance checklists to ensure their equipment and facilities are properly cared for and maintained to high sanitation standards. To keep a clean outdoor fitness center, managers must be aware of some of the sources of safety and sanitation issues. Below are some important factors that contribute to how to keep an outdoor fitness center clean:
- Equipment material rusting: Outdoor gym equipment and furnishings are designed using materials that withstand outdoor conditions thanks to protective coatings that prevent oxidation. However, rust can still build on outdoor equipment over time, meaning gym equipment should be routinely inspected and cleaned to prevent and remove rust.
- Exposure to elements: When equipment is exposed to the elements, including sun, rain and snow, it can cause parts to wear out prematurely. To protect equipment from increased wear and tear, managers and owners should take care to clean equipment routinely to remove the buildup of dirt and grime. If possible, store or cover equipment if inclement weather is on its way.
- Routine maintenance: To protect your investment in gym equipment, make sure to conduct routine inspections and maintenance. Test the equipment regularly and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance protocols. Have technicians service the machines to protect your equipment warranties.
- Litter and trash containment: Public spaces are prone to accumulating litter, even if there are trash receptacles available. To minimize the amount of litter in your outdoor fitness center, provide trash receptacles and make sure to service them regularly.
As a fitness center owner or manager, you want to make your outdoor gym as user-friendly as possible. To encourage cleanliness, provide accessible trash and recycling receptacles that are clearly labeled and positioned in a central location. Outdoor trash receptacles are made from high-quality materials. Available in a variety of styles and finishes, these trash receptacles are suited to meet your outdoor gym design needs.
Create a Space for Resting and Community
Make your sports center or outdoor gym a functional and inviting place to exercise and build community by installing seating, tables, shelters and other site amenities. Below are some of the types of outdoor furnishings and accessories to include in your outdoor gym or sports center to encourage rest and community.
When exercising or playing sports, people need a place to rest and recover during and after physical activity. Rest and recovery are vital components of fitness regimes, playing key roles in muscle-building, endurance and injury prevention.
Outdoor fitness spaces should provide sufficient seating both for users and other community members. In sports centers, seating provides spectators with a comfortable spot to watch the activity and can also offer a place for players to rest afterward.
Outdoor benches provide sports centers and outdoor gyms with the ideal seating solutions for resting, spectating and gathering. Choose from several different bench sizes, ranging from 6 to 15 feet, as well as various bench styles, including player benches.
Outdoor fitness parks and sports centers are more than places for individual exercise — they’re also for groups and families to share the benefits of physical activity together. Outdoor amenities, like picnic tables, allow families to enjoy time spent outdoors at a sporting event or fitness park. Picnic tables and dining amenities encourage groups to spend more time outdoors, offering a convenient public spot to hold fitness and sports team meetings, post-game meals and other recreational events.
Outdoor picnic tables are designed for outdoor sports and recreation centers as well as fitness parks. Choose the ideal configuration for your outdoor center’s needs, including two-person or four-person square or round tables, as well as conventional picnic table styles with attached or detached benches. Be sure to also add ADA-accessible picnic tables, ideal for wheelchair sporting events or for fitness enthusiasts with disabilities.
To make your outdoor gym, fitness park or sports center safe and enjoyable, provide ample shelter for visitors. Shelters offer a place for respite between exercises to escape the heat or stay dry during a sudden downpour. Spectators, caregivers and trainers also benefit from having shelters as they wait, observe or supervise activities.
Choose from shade shelters designed for installation over benches or tables. Shelters can be added to single benches, 6-foot tables with benches or square picnic tables.
Additional Outdoor Furnishings
Make your park accessible to cyclists by providing bike racks that encourage bicycle commuting to your center. Browse bike rack styles and learn how to incorporate bike racks into outdoor designs.
You can also promote a fun and easy-going atmosphere at your outdoor sports center by installing grills. Public grills encourage families and groups to enjoy the fitness center and provide a convenient amenity for sporting events. Browse outdoor park grills and read our commercial park grill buying guide to help choose the right model for your sports center.
Add Running Trails
Expand the offerings and accessibility of your fitness park by developing a trail system for running or walking. Walking paths and running trails enhance the landscape design of your outdoor fitness center while providing a safe and convenient way for users to reach their cardio exercise goals.
A popular design for fitness parks is to establish a network of running trails or walking paths with fitness equipment installations throughout, encouraging users to do aerobic activity in between strength-building exercises. Throughout the trail system, users can stop at various fitness stations and perform the designated exercise, whether it’s core or resistance exercises or mobility and coordination activities. This helps facilitate a well-rounded fitness regime where users will be more likely to meet the full physical activity recommendations.
Running trails and pathways also encourage more functional fitness, including accommodating people of all ages and activity levels. Trails can be designed to be wide and stable enough to accommodate wheelchairs, families and fitness groups.
Incorporating running trails into outdoor gym design also opens up the facility to be able to host fitness competitions and events. Having a versatile fitness center with equipment and running trails makes the park available to more visitors and increases the opportunity to build greater community awareness. Fitness parks with running trails can also become destinations for charity events, such as 5k fundraisers, or community or school sports days.
Replace Damaged Equipment
Properly maintaining exercise equipment is vital to the health and safety standards of any public fitness operation. Exercise equipment undergoes heavy, repeated use, leading to eventual wear and tear and the potential for parts to fail. Given the force and velocity that exercise machines carry while in motion, it can be dangerous if equipment fails while in use. To avoid injuries and potential legal consequences, replace damaged or old equipment.
Some of the most common causes of damaged equipment include:
- Releasing equipment under tension too quickly, leading to fracturing components or loosening fasteners
- Infrequently lubricating machine parts, including linkages and other moving components
- Improper equipment use, including misusing equipment for exercises other than the intended exercise
- Not adjusting equipment to the proper size settings for the individual
Also consider when to repair versus replace damaged gym equipment. Reading the warranty can provide guidance as to which types of damage are repairable and which issues require you to replace the machine entirely. Repairing equipment can help you save on equipment costs. However, if the same piece of equipment continues to experience a recurring issue, then it’s safer to replace the equipment to prevent serious accidents.
Most gyms and fitness centers charge members an annual, semi-annual or quarterly fee to help cover the cost of equipment replacements. This allows gym owners to be able to have a separate fund to ensure damaged equipment gets removed and replaced immediately rather than trying to repair it or make it work.
Add a Space for Organized Sports
In addition to conventional exercises, such as strength training or cardio activity, playing a sport is another beneficial way to stay physically active. Compared to exercise regimes, team and individual sports have several unique benefits, including:
- Fosters social connection and well-being
- Helps improve self-esteem and personal sense of achievement
- Teaches important skills like communication, teamwork and goal-attainment
- Provides a dynamic way to work on critical abilities, such as balance, coordination, flexibility and agility
- Boosts cardiovascular health, endurance and stamina
For outdoor fitness centers, having areas dedicated to playing informal or organized sports can help attract more members and build a broader community of users. Some amenities to add to your outdoor sports center design include:
- Tennis courts
- Basketball and hockey courts
- Soccer and baseball fields
- Outdoor swimming pools
- Skate parks
Sports like tennis, basketball and soccer are low-cost investments and are accessible to a wide variety of skill levels and abilities. Additionally, basketball or hockey courts can be important venues for the community where organizations can host events for people with disabilities. Wheelchair basketball is a popular adaptive sport for kids and adults with disabilities.
Upgrade Your Outdoor Sports and Fitness Center With Wabash Valley Site Furnishings
Outdoor sports and fitness centers are integral operations within a community, providing individuals and families with fun, accessible and healthy ways to stay active and social. If you’re planning to upgrade your current outdoor sports center or you’re looking for a new outdoor gym design, consider partnering with Wabash Valley for your outdoor furnishing needs.
Explore our outdoor furnishings and site amenities that are ideal solutions for sports and fitness centers, or browse our Wabash Valley blog for ideas and inspiration on how to upgrade outdoor spaces. Contact us today to work with a sales rep or to get more information on outdoor furnishing solutions for your fitness center.
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