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What are the characteristics of a good outdoor fitness facility?

Spring is now officially here and the utilization rate of outdoor fitness centers is on the rise after winter.


Gritbird's goal is to promote the culture of physical activity by developing inspiring outdoor exercise equipment, and for our part, to have a positive impact on the development of public health in the long term. The following questions constantly arise in our own development and in discussions with our stakeholders:


  • What is a good outdoor gym like?

  • How should they be placed?

  • How could the less active population be activated with the help of outdoor fitness facilities?


We also wanted to bring an outside perspective to the topic, so we asked these and other questions to a professional in the field of sports, physical trainer Matias Nikula:


1. How do you think outdoor gyms have developed in the last 10 years?


- In my opinion, there has been a clear leap forward in outdoor gyms over the past few years. Even ten years ago, these places were often designed with people who were only slightly mobile in mind, and people who were already physically active were hardly thought about in their design. In other words, the fact that they were designed by a person who has not had to use them himself was very visible in these exercise places.


2. How do you define a good outdoor fitness facility?


- In my opinion, a good outdoor fitness facility is versatile and offers something for every user, regardless of their level of physical development. A good outdoor fitness facility also offers clear instructions for the use and operation of the equipment. It also offers some sort of platform for progressive development, either directly by adding weights or by offering more challenging movement variations.


3. How should outdoor fitness facilities be placed?


- Of course it would be good to think about the degree of use when placing outdoor fitness facilities. In other words, it would make sense to place an outdoor exercise area in an area where there is a lot of spontaneous outdoor exercise and movement. This increases the utilization rate of the outdoor exercise place and also attracts people who would not go looking for such a place to exercise.


4. What do you think about bodyweight training?


- Bodyweight training is an excellent way to train muscle strength, endurance and movement control skills. Of course, the challenge of bodyweight training always depends on the available space and equipment. For example, the push-up is an excellent movement, but as such requires a relatively large amount of strength from the upper body. If the trainee has the opportunity to vary the movement, for example by raising the hands to a higher stand, this immediately makes the movement easier and enables progressive development in the long term by changing the position. This variety of movements is very important in bodyweight training, as different bodies and strength levels require variety of exercises to make it as safe and accessible as possible.


5. What is suspension training and is it effective?


- Suspension training practically means that the training is not done against a fixed frame, but free-moving suspension belts are used as a tool. Training with such straps significantly challenges the trainee's balance and body control, and in addition, the small supporting muscles of the body which often get less attention, get more work. With the help of suspension straps, it is also easier to adjust the center of gravity of the body, which helps to adjust the challenge of the individual exercise to suit everyone. When training with suspension straps, the range of motion also increases significantly, making bodyweight training efficient and versatile.


6. How could the less mobile population be activated with the help of outdoor fitness facilities?


- The location of the outdoor fitness center is of primary importance. It should already be along good transport connections or in a place where people move spontaneously anyway. In other words, a fitness center located along a popular walking route attracts exercisers the best. In addition to this, good and clear instructions in one way or another play a very big role. Asking for help from an outsider is an impossible idea for many people with limited mobility, which is why clear instructions are key.


7. How do you think the population's exercise habits will develop in the future?


- Exercise and hobby activities have been on the rise for years in the sense that even in a bad economic situation, these things are less often compromised. The pandemic that has hit the world in the last year has certainly raised the profile of exercise as a promoter of health and well-being. I also believe that with technological development, more and more jobs will always become physically lighter, so voluntary exercise will become an even more significant component of healthy exercise.


Thanks to Matias for the answers! We would also like to challenge you to a dialogue about the development and future of outdoor sports venues. Send us your comments on the above topics by e-mail (info@gritbird.com) or on social media (@gritbird). Let's develop the culture of physical activity together!


With best regards,


The Gritbird team and Matias Nikula

*Matias Nikula is a physical and nutrition coach from Lahti with over 7 years of coaching experience. Matias has extensively trained in the field both in Finland and abroad. More information at www.matiasnikula.fi

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