Being active physically is crucial for human health and wellness, yet as of the last 50 years, people started having very little physical activity throughout the day. There’s one good thing that happened, however—a new fitness trend emerged in the 70s and 80s, and it’s called outdoor gyms.
Simply put, the outdoor gym is a gym placed in a public space, usually a park, neighborhood green area or kids playground. The all-weather construction and durability of the machines is modeled on kids’ playground equipment. How did these outdoor gyms come about, how they developed and what do they look like right now? Let’s find out.
The origins of outdoor gyms
As the cities grew, industrialization developed and the socio-economic picture changed, the structure of the population according to age also changed. Soon different lifestyles followed and non-communicable diseases stepped on the scene. Due to these changes in the past, we have non-communicable diseases responsible for approximately one-third of all deaths around the globe. Out of these diseases, cardiovascular ones are the most prominent, followed by injuries and chronic respiratory diseases. Cancer and diabetes are also quite present in today’s society.
One reason why people started suffering from these aforementioned diseases more is the exposure to richer diets and sedentary lifestyles in people in cities. One solution to the issue of chronic-disease problem was the installation of fitness equipment in public areas, so everyone can use them and improve their health. These facilities are always open and very accessible, so people can be active, soak up the sun and get fresh air while working out.
Outdoor gym equipment
Every outdoor gym is different because its equipment varies according to location, size of the park and the visitors who come there. There’s no list of equipment written in stone that includes all the machines and fixtures one outdoor gym needs to have. However, machines that make an appearance in outdoor gyms are categorized into strength training and cardio machines. The equipment that usually appears includes pullup bars, parallel dip bars, ellipticals, stationary bikes, rowing machines, etc. Some outdoor gym architects chose to invest in fencing supplies for the gyms to protect the people exercising inside from balls flying in, toddlers running in or dogs playing around. However, even though fenced in, these gyms are always open and available for use—now they are just made a little safer.
Why they work
Outdoor gyms encourage people to be more physically active since they are accessible and smartly located. Usually, architects chose to place outdoor gyms in areas with many pedestrians so people can work out as they come back from the store. Another smart move is to place outdoor gyms next to kids playgrounds so that parents can work on their fitness while kids play. Placing outdoor gyms in these locations can attract new users, create regular users and involve different people in exercise.
It’s well-known that being physically active is good for physical, mental and overall health, but getting people to be active is still hard. The good news is that in the last couple of years, the outdoor gym trend has spread across the cities and continues to make exercise free and accessible to everyone. Just in China, there are more than 600,000 outdoor gyms today. In this country, outdoor fitness and gyms have been used as a part of the national campaign in the wake of the 2008 Olympics. To help the population stay healthy, the Chinese government dedicated 20 million square meters to outdoor gyms across the country, and at this moment, one-third of the country’s sports lottery goes towards funding these gyms. In Copenhagen in Denmark, there are over 60 spots where people can exercise outside, even though the city only has 600,000 inhabitants—they are in the lead when it comes to accessible and free outdoor gyms.
Thanks to outdoor gyms, the future of both outdoor fitness and human health look promising. These training grounds not only help us stay healthy and active, but they can also strengthen the local community (if implemented well). The next step is to add a digital layer to these outdoor gyms to modernize outdoor gyms and start attracting younger people and kids to work out in the fresh air and sunshine.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.