How to design inclusive public outdoor fitness sites

A man in a wheelchair working out on inclusive fitness equipment outdoors

What is an inclusive outdoor fitness site?

Outdoor fitness and outdoor gyms are more popular than ever. However, the increase in popularity sets a new standard for inclusion in outdoor gyms. An inclusive outdoor fitness site is a thoughtfully designed space that prioritizes accessibility, diversity, and community engagement to accommodate individuals of all fitness levels, abilities, and backgrounds.

Many people face barriers to outdoor fitness activities due to disabilities, impairments, or age. We must promote inclusion and create welcoming and supportive outdoor fitness areas. Through thorough research and user testing by the KOMPAN Fitness Institute, we have gained excellent knowledge on how you can create an inclusive outdoor gym for your community to enjoy.

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Defining Disabilities

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines disabilities as long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment. For an outdoor gym to be truly inclusive, it must accommodate wheelchair users, seniors, and people with vision impairments, just to name a few. To support this, KOMPAN Fitness Institute did a survey in 2019 where they found that 92% of wheelchair users would use an outdoor gym if it were useful for them. The growing urbanisation and ageing population also favour creating outdoor gyms that accommodate impairments.

A man in a wheelchair using and inclusive outdoor gym

Planning Inclusive Outdoor Fitness Sites

Inclusive equipment is neutral to gender, age, body, weight, fitness levels and cognitive skills and also caters to seniors and people with disabilities. Consider the following factors when designing and implementing outdoor fitness sites:
inclusive fitness site with multiple people working out

1. Accommodate all genders, age, and abilities

Outdoor fitness sites should be designed with equipment for everyone to use. Choose neutral equipment comparable to the ones you find indoors. This equipment has adjustable resistance and adaptive design like strength training machines or cardio equipment.

seniors using an outdoor leg press mashine

2. Different types of equipment for different types of users

Your outdoor fitness equipment should cater to users’ different needs and preferences. Choose specific items that are usable for wheelchair users, like the arm bike and the core twist. To accommodate the needs of seniors and rehabilitation, choose items from the Stay Fit line.

outdoor fitness site with different zones to make it more inclusive

3. Guidance and zoning

Design and plan your inclusive outdoor gym into different zones so everyone feels safe and secure when working out. It could be a zone for strength with adjustable machines and a zone for street workouts.

The benefits of inclusive outdoor fitness sites

The benefits of a successful outdoor gym are tremendous for everyone. The fresh air, natural scenery, and the possibility to socialise with others are just some benefits of being active and exercising outdoors.

Here are the key points that emphasise the importance of inclusion in outdoor fitness:

Promotes Physical Well-being: Inclusion allows people of all abilities to engage in outdoor fitness activities, promoting physical health and wellness for a broader demographic.

Supports Mental Health: Outdoor fitness promotes mental well-being, and inclusion ensures that more people can benefit from the positive effects of exercise on mental health. Natural daylight improves sleep, mood and immune function.

Enhances Accessibility: Inclusive outdoor fitness facilities ensure that individuals with disabilities or mobility challenges have equal access to exercise equipment and spaces. This reduces inequality, providing no barriers for low-income groups.

Fosters a Sense of Belonging: Inclusion creates an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, and part of a fitness community, reducing feelings of isolation.

Diversity of Skill Levels: Inclusive fitness sites accommodate beginners, experienced athletes, and everyone in between, encouraging people to start and progress at their own pace.

Incorporating inclusivity into outdoor fitness is not just about creating an equitable space; it's about reaping the physical, mental, and social benefits a diverse and welcoming fitness community can offer individuals and society. We are no more than a click away; we are here to guide you in the right direction.

Examples of Inclusive Outdoor Fitness Sites

There are some great examples of inclusive outdoor fitness sites around the world. These fitness designs are all created to accommodate a variety of users and their individual needs.
Large conceptual design of an inclusive fitness site

Fit for all

This site is created based on the universal design principle, as it works equally well for disabled, seniors, untrained and fit people. The design is divided into zones with different coloured equipment: one for strength, one for cardio, one for outdoor gym stations, and one for mobility. The equipment is installed with lots of free space, so it is easy to manoeuvre around.

Conceptual fitness design of an outdoor fitness circuit training area

Circuit training

This outdoor fitness design mimics the machines we know from indoor gyms. Most people feel comfortable using adjustable strength and cardio equipment, which can be adjusted to the users’ individual fitness levels, making it possible for everyone to get an effective workout.

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outdoor gym equipment woman using an outdoor fitness strength training machine