During the course of the pandemic, outdoor fitness boomed as a trend. For campus recreation, it became a necessity in order to continue to serve students while indoor fitness was shut down. For consumers, it became a much-needed reprieve from isolation, and a way to destress and remain active during disrupted routines. With the rise in outdoor fitness activity, many communities are investing in outdoor gyms. What has been the impact?
The Study on Outdoor Gyms
In order to answer this question, researchers examined whether building more outdoor gyms resulted in people moving more.
To test their hypothesis, they examined outdoor gyms in the city of Temuco, Chile. The results? Over the span of almost 10 years, adults in the city were more likely to comply with the World Health Organization’s recommendations for weekly exercise.
“My top takeaway from this study is that expanding access to outdoor physical activity opportunities gets people moving more,” said Dr. Amy Bantham, the national spokesperson for The Moving Together Outside campaign, the CEO and founder of Move to Live More, and an ACE-certified exercise professional. “A city in Chile installed outdoor gyms in different neighborhoods and tracked residents’ physical activity levels every three years for a decade. Residents of neighborhoods with adequate numbers of outdoor gyms had improved odds of meeting the World Health Organization’s physical activity recommendations.”
Bearing these results in mind, outdoor offerings could be a great investment for campus rec centers. For example, they can help improve the health of their students and local communities — physical and mental. In addition, it’s a great way to take advantage of a growing trend.
“Many consumers began being physically active outdoors during the pandemic, and we realized we liked it,” said Bantham. “Research backs us up. There are proven mental and physical health benefits to being active outdoors. Outdoor fitness was and will continue to be a worthy investment for health and fitness facilities. It is No. 3 on ACSM’s top fitness trends for 2022, up from No. 17 in 2019.”
The goal of The Moving Together Outside campaign is to expand access. It’s also to reduce restrictions to using community spaces for outdoor physical activity programming.
“The outdoor gyms that helped get people moving in this study consisted of about 10 different pieces of strength, cardiorespiratory and flexibility training equipment,” explained Bantham.
According to Bantham, fitness facilities can access tools here to help them put shared use agreements and affordable permitting structures in place in their communities.
It appears the outdoor fitness trend is here to stay. So, how will your campus rec department take advantage of it?