The Power of Outdoor Group Exercise on Campus

outdoor group exercise

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The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently published their top fitness trends for 2019. No. 2 on the list was group training. Just a little further down the list was outdoor activities. When writing about outdoor activities, they did so in the context of a group setting:

“This is a trend for health and fitness professionals to offer more outdoor activities such as group walks, group rides or organized hiking groups. They can be short events, day-long events or planned week hiking excursions. Participants may meet in a local park, hiking area or on a bike trail with a leader.”

Numerous studies have shown people who exercise outdoors engage in the activity more frequently and for longer periods of time. Similar studies find people who exercise as part of a group are more likely to stick with a program because of the support of their fellow fitness enthusiasts. It stands to reason combining two of the top fitness trends can greatly enhance campus quality of life for students and faculty. Here’s why:

  • Group training has the highest level of participation among training methodologies, according to IHRSA annual reports.
  • The American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports outdoor exercise reduces stress, improves mood and enhances self-esteem.
  • Group training participants are more motivated to continue their workouts and work toward health and wellness goals according to the Journal of Social Sciences.
  • The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) finds outdoor exercise removes barriers to entry for most participants, including the cost of a gym membership or the time and scheduling constraints associated with indoor facilities.
  • The American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA) reports group training provides a high level of accountability for participants, a sense of camaraderie and social interactions that go beyond the training period.

Moreover, conversations with campus recreation professionals reveal how important it is to maximize the available indoor space within a facility. As campus recreation departments take on the vital role of providing options for improving health and wellness, freeing up indoor space by taking some or all of your group training classes outdoors provides a wider range of options. Your indoor training capabilities are limited by the square footage within the walls of your facility. The outdoors is not constrained by such issues.

A lot of your indoor gym equipment – med balls, battle ropes, agility ladders, etc. – can easily be moved outdoors for a group training session, and there are permanent equipment options you can explore as well. Many campuses include outdoor fitness equipment like elliptical machines, pull-up bars or chest presses along walking paths for students and faculty to exercise while walking to and from class. Some universities install permanent obstacle courses for intramural competitions or athletic training. No matter how you decide to do it, taking workouts outdoors is a win for your facility and for the people who count on you to help them achieve a higher quality of life.

Tyler Kyriopoulos is the president of Great Western Recreation, a representative of GameTime. He designs outdoor fitness spaces for parks, universities and other outdoor organizations. You can reach Tyler at tyler@gwpark.com.

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