The Importance of Fitness Flooring if Often Overlooked

Fitness flooring: It’s probably the largest piece of equipment in any given fitness space. Everyone uses it and yet it’s a piece we usually don’t give much thought to. It’s the floor. Everyone who uses the fitness space interacts with this piece of equipment, even though many don’t think of it as actual equipment. It needs to address safety, aesthetics, acoustics and ergonomics in order to meet the objectives of the facility team and most importantly the people using the facility. When you think of flooring in this way it starts to look like a major consideration if you want to be at the top of your game.

Arthur B. Dodge III, CEO and president of flooring innovator ECORE International, Inc. boldly states that “Everybody interacts with a surface. Everybody has a floor that they walk on, play on, run on. Very few people take a second to think about it.” He knows that the products he’s innovating to create are not top-of-mind, but he’s working to make them less invisible. ECORE as a company focuses on recycling to produce top performance flooring. As North America’s largest manufacturer of recycled scrap-tire-derived rubber products, ECORE re-uses more than 86 million pounds of post-consumer recycled material each year in their flooring products. This results in some pretty innovative surfaces that are flexible and slip-resistant, sound absorbing and more sustainable than their industrial carpet predecessors.

Flooring is no longer just a passive surface defined by appearance, price, texture and availability. Facilities are looking at acoustics, safety and ergonomics to reconsider how much of a priority they assign to the flooring options for their fitness centers.

Acoustics Matter

The number one complaint in multi-family building satisfaction has to do with noise. Noisy neighbors and poor sound insulation creates unhappy tenants. A New York Times article suggested that flooring could be a major culprit, citing that “Concrete floors that lack a dropped ceiling beneath, as well as wood-beam floors, are poor sound buffers” in multi-floor apartment buildings.

They go so far as to suggest that “Acoustic consultants can be hired to evaluate the noise-transmission qualities of a floor” but it might just be a matter of common sense. If a fitness facility, with cardio machines and weights being dropped, is above or below living areas, the right performance flooring should be prioritized to mitigate sound transference. More and more, fitness centers are on upper floors so that views from windows can enhance the experience that this valued amenity provides. In that instance, flooring is an essential component to keeping the fitness experience valuable in part by keeping the peace, literally, with surrounding living areas.

It’s all about reducing vibration, and flooring can play a significant role in making that happen.

In today’s more open office environments too, a lack of “sound privacy” is a big drain on morale and can cost employers as much as 86 minutes per day of productivity lost due to “noise distractions.” With the new advancements in flooring design, professional offices and work spaces don’t even need to sacrifice aesthetics to help with sound absorption. “For the organization that has a severe noise problem (think call centers or co-working spaces that are becoming very popular among entrepreneurs and startups),” flooring is suggested as one of the “few surprising and stylish fixes that can be installed to reduce sound.”

Ergonomics and Aesthetics

Combining appearance with performance, or fashion with function, is particularly useful with today’s fitness flooring options. Facilities want to look good as well as perform to a standard of health and wellbeing that end-users expect.

According to Athletic Business, “Fitness center design is starting to show more character, and flooring can play a major role. Whether you’re designing a new facility, or redesigning an existing one, never underestimate the impact that flooring can have in terms of aesthetics, sustainability and bio-friendliness.”

Fitness facility managers are becoming more aware that “a variety of options exist to create a more exciting look with flooring. These include using various color palettes, adding logos or artwork, and combining different flooring materials in various patterns.” But it’s not just about looks, performance matters, and spending hours moving across a particular floor surface has an impact that needs to be taken into consideration.

Ergonomics is all about tailoring the surfaces you use, whether you’re sitting, standing or exercising, to support the human body. Whether you’re playing volleyball or performing surgery, how much impact should the floor absorb and how much force is returned to your body based on its impact with the surface? That’s ergonomics.

Whether it’s cork, wood, vinyl, recycled rubber, turf or another surface that’s preferred, the options are nearly limitless. Many facilities work with fitness design consultants to make the choices that work best for their needs, their communities and their budgets, right alongside their equipment selections.

The Impact on Safety

For years, playground surfaces have been regulated to improve the levels of safety for children who use those playgrounds, specifically as it relates to falls and injury prevention or mitigation. It stands to reason that flooring that absorbs impact and force would be helpful in lessening injuries from falls on that flooring, and studies have proven that to be true.

For functional fitness workouts, the floor and body movements are the only equipment elements necessary. Making sure that the right fitness flooring is in use in your training areas can make the difference between a good workout and a painful bout of shin splints, for example.

In senior living facilities, “fall-related injuries were significantly less frequent when they occurred on low impact floors,” reducing fall-related injuries by 12 percent and reducing fractures from falls to less than one-third of the average for regular floors. Now, it should be noted that the type of flooring did not have an impact on the incidence of falls, just on the resulting effect of the falls.

Some facilities don’t think about flooring choices unless flood damage, complaints or other issues arise that lead to a new or different flooring decision. However, with today’s innovative materials and ergonomic options the flooring used in fitness spaces can serve as much more than just a surface to move across to get from one point to another.