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Designing Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks for Diverse User Groups

In order to ensure your Outdoor Adult Fitness Park is usable by the greatest number of participants, it is important to consider the many user groups who will utilize the space. While user groups are as diverse as the range of outdoor adult fitness equipment, understanding the priorities of the former can help inform choices for the latter, and ensure the Outdoor Adult Fitness Park enjoys frequent use.

Planning an outdoor fitness park is no different than any other public space in that you need to understand the user groups that will be engaging in the space. As an example, fitness spaces designed for heavily used urban environments with many diverse users would likely look much different than one created to serve an adult living community. If this context is not explored and understood, the space may be irrelevant to the surroundings and the local demographic. 

 Host a community meeting to discover the needs and ideas of potential users, and invite people within a 5-10 mile radius to attend a discovery meeting. Ask questions about what types of fitness activities they currently participate in, and how they envision the new space playing a role in their health and fitness. If they don’t currently work out, what would encourage them to start? If they do exercise regularly, what would encourage them to do so in the outdoor gym? What options are missing in their current routine? It’s important to do this prior to designing the space so you have the best information available to help the planners and designers create the perfect environment. It’s a good idea to have images of potential equipment posted around the room, so users can mark the ones they would like to use. This can give planners a great idea on what to include to ensure the outdoor space is used and relevant. 

User groups may include:

Beginners 

Beginners are a great target group for Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks. While they may not have previously participated in exercise for any number of reasons, including cost and access, Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks reduce these constraints and make it easy to get started. They require no membership or check-in process, just show up and get going. The designs are such that users of all abilities will be comfortable, and each piece of equipment should feature instructions to acclimate non-users to the exercise and its benefits. 

Fitness Enthusiasts 

This group can be your greatest advocates, as they understand the benefits of engaging in a regular fitness program. Be sure the equipment you choose allows users at all fitness levels to exercise so the enthusiast isn’t quickly bored. Also, by having different fitness levels available, the enthusiast is more likely to bring a friend to join in, regardless of fitness level. The enthusiasts may help create a fitness environment that is welcome to many, thereby increasing interest and use of the space. 

Seniors 

Outdoor Fitness Parks are popular for users over age 65, and several observational studies have noted more than 50% of the user groups observed consisting of seniors.  Seniors can realize many benefits, including improved memory, reduced risk of chronic disease, improved agility and mobility, and more. Also, seniors are more likely to use the space during typical workday hours, which helps create even more use across a given day. Seniors can also benefit emotionally in the Outdoor Adult Fitness Park by exercising with friends, spouse, or family. 

Families 

Locating a fitness area within sight of a play space is a popular way to provide adults and older family members with a way to get the same benefits of play while they supervise children on the playground.  

Users with Disabilities 

Remember that people of all abilities will want to use your space. Equipment is available that can meet the needs of people with mobility devices, so be sure your space includes this type of equipment in the overall design so that everyone can exercise comfortably. Pay attention to the route of travel to and from the Outdoor Adult Fitness Park, as well as the surfacing used, to ensure the entire space is accessible to all. 

Multilinguals 

The people who use your Outdoor Adult Fitness Park may speak different languages; ensure that the instructions for usage are intuitive. Diagrams illustrating the exercise to be performed, as well as smart phone enabled instructions are valuable tools to ensuring your equipment is easy to use. Be sure to ask your supplier how they address communication needs. 

Solo Users 

Your Outdoor Adult Fitness Park will be used by adults who are unaccompanied; ensure the area provides good sight lines so that they feel safe. If your park is open after dusk, ensure there is adequate lighting both on the path leading up to, and within, the exercise space. 

Classes 

Offering classes at the Outdoor Adult Fitness Park can provide many benefits, ensuring the community is engaged with the space, providing a potential revenue generating opportunity by charging a fee to instructors and/or participants, and increasing usage of the park while promoting community health. Be sure your instructors are licensed to teach courses. 

NIMBYS 

While not a user group, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes development projects can be challenged by opponents who raise the rallying cry of “Not in My Back Yard.” No matter how much the proposal or infrastructure improvement is needed by the community at large, someone may object, and such opposition can derail, delay, or increase project costs geometrically. To help overcome potential citizen criticism and/or opposition, identify, recruit, and mobilize pro-project allies first. If people believe most of their fellow citizens support a development proposal, they are less likely to voice opposition to it. Be sure to listen to concerns, and address them positively to decrease likelihood of arguments. Most opposition usually falls into four categories: Misinformation, Emotional Needs, Conflicts of Values, and Conflicts of Interest. Misinformation is one of the easiest to correct by simply making sure that the actual facts are presented in a clear manner through a public information campaign. Ensuring that neighbors in the immediate vicinity feel involved and part of the process, and focusing on mutual priorities, rather than conflicting values, can often help with other types of opposition. 

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