Outdoor Fitness Equipment Planning

How to ensure your equipment is everything you need it to be, outside.

During the summer months, the outdoors becomes an ideal place to continue your fitness routine while taking in some fresh air and sunshine. Baseball diamonds fill up, soccer fields are overflowing, and trails become crowded with runners and bikers. If those aren’t quite your “thing” take heart, as there are other ways to enjoy outdoor fitness, especially if you want a similar structure to the one you’re used to year-round. Functional fitness training and strength training alike use equipment to guide body movements and help support performance, and some of those equipment pieces are finding their way outside. Here is an outdoor fitness equipment planning guide.

At first glance, you might think back to your childhood playground or fun school days spent sliding and swinging with your friends, but today’s outdoor fitness areas aren’t just for the young. More and more, fitness equipment is being integrated into landscape plans as outdoor exercise equipment options are becoming more common and available in communities where outdoor lifestyles are prevalent.

The American College of Sports Medicine’s annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends continues to rank outdoor fitness among the top 20 trends in fitness, as outdoor options can help address the rising childhood obesity crisis alongside meeting the needs for other age groups, interests, and athletic abilities.

Capitalizing on a number of these trends, companies who are creating outdoor fitness equipment are combining scalable body weight training stations with extremely durable construction and galvanized, weatherproof materials so that equipment can stand up to all of the elements. Surprisingly customizable, outdoor fitness stations can be reconfigured to change height choices for steps and jumps, adjust hand positions for upper body rowing and pulling exercises, different press positions and various resistance levels are just some of the options available.

Studies are often quoted about the benefits of being outdoors, and how exercising outside can improve your mood, decrease stress, and even “inspire greater commitment to an exercise program.” (New York Times, The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors, February 21, 2013). Differences in terrain can work different muscle groups and improve balance and coordination when compared to more controlled indoor environments. Wind and temperature fluctuations have different impacts on cardio vascular endurance and stamina. Physiologically, exercising outside just seems to boost the overall effect. Though studies have small control groups and sometimes blurry scientific parameters, one result comes through loud and clear: exercising outside lasts longer and creates greater results than exercising indoors. Maybe it’s the sunshine or the birdsong or the breeze through the trees, but whatever the combination it works.

Exercise equipment companies have longed to evolve beyond the playground stereotype to support the trend to get outdoors, and it seems like they’re finally gaining ground. Communities are recognizing the benefits and many are getting serious about putting in durable equipment to serve their populations. “If outdoor activity encourages more activity, then it is a good thing,” says Jacqueline Kerr, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who led a study of older adults that found outdoor exercising lasted longer and helped reluctant or inconsistent exercisers become more active. “Despite the fitness industry boom,” she continues, “we are not seeing changes in national physical activity levels, so gyms are not the answer.”

Outdoor exercise equipment is easy to use for all ages and fitness levels. From basic balance and cardio exercises to resistance training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training), simple equipment installations like a dip or press station, boxes for stepping or jumping, pull down machines and even ski/slide/glide options can deliver a full-body workout, all challenging whatever the individual’s personal fitness level may be.

Municipal recreation centers, parks, schools, multi-family, corporate and senior living communities are all areas where outdoor fitness areas are expanding, and not just with cargo nets and balance beams. There are remarkable similarities with key indoor equipment pieces, including arm and leg press options, dip stations and ski/elliptical equipment options. Apartment complexes and multi-family communities across the country are plugging in to this unplugged equipment trend, “taking outdoor living a step farther while adding a little spirited competition through low-maintenance sports and gaming activities that complement the landscape and maximize use of green areas. Several communities in Dallas/Fort Worth are turning open space into spirited gaming areas to offer residents a chance to break a sweat.” (Property Management Insider, May 2015)

The popularity of obstacle course racing, mud runs and the like has also fueled a greater interest in outdoor exercise equipment, where the elements most definitely play a part in the fitness experience, and the tougher the better. The range of options for outdoor fitness equipment is vast – from balance and stability options that serve active-aging communities well, to performance and operational options that can be used to train more active athletes, first responders, and even military personnel. Companies like Beaver Fit can even package a boot-camp-worthy outdoor gym into a cargo container and ship it anywhere you’d like.

From apartment complexes and corporate campuses, to schools and community recreation centers, outdoor exercise opportunities are being considered and built at a rapid pace. As facilities try to expand to meet the demands of certain trends (like functional fitness or obstacle course training), many do not have the available space or the flexibility to adapt an internal space to new options. It’s expensive and time-consuming to expand facilities, so many are choosing to creatively explore under-utilized outdoor spaces to create innovative, compelling outdoor fitness areas.

Site planners are carving out small spaces next to well-lit parking lots to put in a consolidated outdoor training system like the Life Fitness Synrgy BlueSky, or looking at individual pieces of equipment that can populate spots along a paved trail (so that you can start with a few pieces and add on as time and budget allow). It also helps if the equipment is under shade and rain protection like a shade sail, canopy or other structure. This will protect the metal pieces from getting too hot and reduce exposure to the elements. In some cases, building owners with limited space are putting outdoor fitness spaces on the roof, which can provide both security and a compelling view.

To properly install and secure outdoor fitness equipment for long term use, concrete footings are required to ensure a long-standing hold of each base, and outdoor fitness flooring is often considered to absorb the impact from jumps and landings (for other pieces of equipment like balancing bars or plyometric boxes), which helps protect an athlete’s joints.

From the outdoor equipment options available, to flooring and installation, and equipment maintenance and service, EcoFit Equipment has access to the products and resources necessary so that you can design what works best for your community and your available space.

Getting fit outdoors is a great way to workout and get more active, and to change up your indoor routine to keep fitness fresh year-round. Having an outdoor fitness area with durable, quality equipment is an evident and popular way to promote wellness across the community, and it’s a benefit that many community members are seeking out, using, and appreciating, especially in outdoor-lifestyle embracing communities. To get in on the action, call EcoFit Equipment and see what outdoor options might be possible for you.