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Public Outdoor Fitness Parks
Exercise Through Play

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

This Indianapolis fitness park is themed around their beloved NFL Colts and was designed to provide active recreation for kids, adults and families. The challenge course includes 11 obstacles, some of which mimic the equipment professional football players use. Adjacent to the course is an outdoor fitness area aimed at providing a well-rounded workout for users aged 13 and up. The park was recognized by PlayCore as a National Demonstration Site for Outdoor Adult Fitness.

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

Specializing in outdoor workout equipment, one of Greenfields Outdoor FitnessaEUR(TM) newest offerings, the Functional Fitness Rig, provides stations for those at advanced physical levels. Stations such as a rope climb, cannonball pull-up bar, high rings, suspension trainers and many others provide a highly rigorous workout experience.

The latest data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the prevalence of obesity in America was 39.8% for adults and 18.5% for youth. In order to slow this rate, some playground design companies and researchers have begun to incorporate outdoor fitness parks and multi-generational, interactive play equipment in their cities.

Public fitness parks can hold a range of advantages that might not be readily apparent. For instance, they can be easily accessed, be free of membership fees, have unrestricted parking, provide financial opportunities for local personal trainers and more.
Modern Versus Traditional Equipment
According to the NRPA, public outdoor fitness parks began in the 1970s and included traditional equipment such as: pull-up bars, walking trails and low-lying pushup bars. Today, however, designers and manufacturers have begun to develop more interactive and appealing fitness equipment, like: leg presses, lat pull downs, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, rowers and back extension machines.

For example, Westphalia Community Center playground, located in Upper Marlboro, Md., was designed by the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission and includes a timed 40-yard dash and a parkour challenge course. The course is fun for little kids to play on and exciting for adults to workout on, therefore serving a double purpose. There are also shaded tables nearby where seniors can rest and play chess
or checkers.

Another great example pertaining to the evolution of outdoor fitness equipment can be seen in the designs submitted to the Cleveland Design Competition by Pashek+MTR of Pittsburgh. Their plans incorporate dance and music as a way to get fit while also creating a sense of community. For instance, they designed an outdoor dance floor overlooking Lake Erie that would have buttons on the ground and that could play a note when stepped on. The idea is that one person could play a tune and receive some exercise, while a group of people could play a song and build a communal bond.
How Researchers Are Getting Involved
Congruent with the aim of lowering obesity rates, two professors from Texas Tech University, Charles Klein from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Kristi Gaines from the Department of Design, have spearheaded a group of researchers known as "OLE! Lubbock."

OLE stands for Outdoor Learning Environments and the team is tasked with examining the relationship between the design of outdoor play spaces and the obesity rate.

"I'm working with the OLE! Texas Initiative, sponsored by the Texas Department of State Health Services, as an early intervention strategy to address the obesity epidemic," professor Klein states. "My work is almost exclusively with childcare centers, although it's a natural evolution to expand to schools and parks."

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

Pashek Associates of Delaware, Penn., submitted this design for the Cleveland Design Competition, an "Ideas" competition for transforming an existing trail connection into an interactive, intergenerational play space. Included in their design was the "Cycle Circle," which aims to combine healthy living with fun and music. It consists of a variety of bicycles facing a central sculpture of gears, which move and make noise upon peddling.

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

The Westphalia Community Center, in the town of Upper Marlboro, Md., has an outdoor fitness park situated next to a childrenaEUR(TM)s playground and thus accommodates multi-generational play and fitness. The park includes a parkour challenge course, a timed 40-yard dash for competitions and a walking loop. The landscape architecture team consisted of: Brenda Iraola (landscape architecture supervisor), Lynn Gulley (project manager) and Chris Colvin (landscape architect). Photo Credit: M-NCPPC

The scholars recently received a $149,982 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to further their studies. Turn to page 80 to read more.

Emerging Trends
Anne-Marie Spencer, vice president of marketing at PlayCore and a member of their fitness research and development team, relays that she sees two major trends regarding outdoor fitness equipment.
The first, she states, is the inclusion of workout equipment near playgrounds. This allows busy families a chance to have something for everyone. Before the inclusion of workout machines, parents would simply sit and monitor their children playing. Now, adults can stay busy and still keep an eye on their kids.

The second noticeable trend is the installation of obstacle equipment.

"Obstacle course racing is the fastest growing sport in the world right now," Spencer says. "Coupled with the popularity of programs like American Ninja Warrior, the excitement and popularity around this type of fitness is exploding."

To answer this call, more and more obstacle-course themed equipment is being installed across the country. The obstacles are built to be intuitive, provide several ways to traverse and should scale to a person's ability, allowing an advanced person and a beginner equal opportunities to use the equipment.

Spencer relates that there are also apps available for some parkour courses that permit people to compete on a national level and see how their time compares to others playing on the same
course design.

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

One interesting mention about the Westphalia park is that there are silhouettes of leaps, backflips and other parkour related body movements on the siteaEUR(TM)s safety surfacing. This was intentionally done to inspire people of all ages to get active. Brenda J. Iraola, of the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission, states that the parkour space was the first of its kind in Prince GeorgeaEUR(TM)s County. Photo Credit: M-NCPPC

Public Outdoor Fitness Parks

Another interactive, exercise design submitted to the Cleveland Design Competition was this dance floor. The design incorporates dance steps embedded into the stage floor, which could provide opportunities to teach, learn and share the activity of dance. The goal of the design was to promote interactive and intergenerational spaces.

Allison Abel, director of marketing at Greenfields Outdoor Fitness Equipment, relays that she notices a trend in more inclusive workout equipment being installed at outdoor fitness parks.

"In 2018, Greenfields introduced three new units designed for users in wheelchairs, allowing wheelchair users to enjoy more challenging workouts and participate in activities alongside the rest of the community."

In 2015, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released a 25-page standard for "Unsupervised Public Use Outdoor Fitness Equipment" known as ASTM-F3103. The standard establishes parameters for the design and manufacture of outdoor fitness equipment in the aims of "minimiz[ing] the likelihood of
serious injuries."

The ASTM-F3101 specifically outlines rules regarding crush/shear points, hanging apparatuses, safe distance between equipment, appropriate safety surfacing and more.

Abel talks about how her company's products adhere to the ASTM standards, "[Our] units have been carefully designed to conform to all voluntary ASTM standards for outdoor fitness equipment, avoiding hazards such as pinch points and protrusions. Because kids may be attracted to the fitness equipment, units also feature signage stating age requirements for use."

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April 20, 2019, 1:33 am PDT

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