Fit for Play: Bringing Outdoor Fitness Equipment to Your Community
One of the hottest recreation trends around the country is the rise of outdoor fitness parks. The outdoor gym gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic for those looking for a safe and convenient way to stay healthy. These fitness zones are revolutionizing physical activity for youth and adults by making it accessible to everyone in the community.
Experts recommend 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for kids, but less than a quarter meet this goal. By adding playground fitness equipment to your park or playground, you can encourage more people to be active and improve the overall health of your community. Communities featuring outdoor fitness equipment allow children to reach exercise guidelines while having a blast.
At Play Mart, we believe physical activity should be enjoyable for children of all ages and abilities. That’s why we’ve created a PlayFit™ line that encourages kids to have fun while being active. Our fitness products entertain, build muscle, improve balance and coordination, and develop motor skills. When kids start healthy habits early, they are more likely to grow into thriving adults. Read on to see why your park or rec center should consider jumping on the PlayFit trend!
What Is an Outdoor Fitness Park?
An outdoor fitness park, or activity playground, is a space that features outdoor fitness stations where children or adults can get physical activity in the fresh air. Fitness zones and outdoor gyms are equipped with exercise equipment designed specifically for strength training and aerobic exercises. The layout may vary based on the configuration of the park or recreation center, but generally, they incorporate a variety of stations that target different muscle groups, spread over a course that also allows for cardiovascular activity by walking or running between stations.
Benefits of Activity Playgrounds for Community Parks
Outdoor exercise areas aren’t just for fitness enthusiasts. There are countless advantages to bringing fitness playgrounds to your community. Utilizing fitness courses contributes to using the public parks system, making it more vibrant and engaging for everyone. It’s a win-win situation that promotes community spirit and encourages a healthier lifestyle for all.
Regular exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and taking it outdoors has even more benefits. Studies show that outdoor exercise can increase energy levels and reduce feelings of anger, tension, and depression. Plus, soaking up the sun during outdoor fitness boosts vitamin D production and improves mood.
Benefits of Outdoor Workout Equipment for Kids
The most obvious benefit of park exercise equipment for children is the physical benefits they need as they grow and develop. These include:
Upper Body Strength
Upper body strength is important for children’s coordination and posture. The Play Mart PlayFit™ line of playground fitness equipment incorporates several types of rock walls, like the Apex Climber and Bouldering Wall, that utilize the muscles in the upper body.
Lower Body Strength
The lower body muscles are the foundation of many physical activities that involve standing, walking, and running. The Matterhorn is designed for children to use their legs to step up and build leg muscles.
Core strength is needed to stabilize children’s bodies and maintain balance. Core muscles include the abdomen, lower back, and hips. The PlayFit Leaf Hoppers are a fantastic way to maintain core strength in a fun way.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills utilize large groups of muscles necessary for large movements such as walking, climbing, and jumping. All types of playground exercise equipment require the use of gross motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills involve smaller movements, typically using the hands and wrists. Grabbing and holding, as children will do on the Pioneer, are a great way to tune fine motor skills.
Flexibility and Joint Health
Just like adults, kids need flexible joints with a wide range of motion. This not only aids in athletic ability but reduces the risk of injury. Overhead Ladders are perfect for building flexibility.
Aside from the physical benefits of fitness equipment, getting kids active reaches beyond the muscles into the cognitive. The American Psychological Association emphasizes that physical activity can improve:
- Mental health: Regular exercise can lead to lower levels of depression, stress, and psychological distress and higher levels of positive self-image, life satisfaction, and psychological well-being. It’s not just a short-term effect either—a study found that children who exercised more at a young age had fewer symptoms of major depressive disorder two years later.
- Behavior: Exercise can improve behavior, particularly in children with behavioral health disorders like autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. A study involving children from Kindergarten to 10th grade found that those who participated in physical activity for 30-40 minutes two days a week experienced better self-regulation and fewer disciplinary issues.
- Attention and academic performance: Research has shown that children who exercise regularly have improved attention spans in the short term. Additionally, these active children tend to have better academic performance over the long term.
- Cognitive development: Exercise is not only good for the body and mind, but it also promotes better thinking skills. Studies have revealed that regular exercise in children ages 7 to 12 is linked to a measurable improvement in executive function—skills crucial for learning, problem-solving, and self-control. Even in early childhood, preliminary evidence suggests that physical activity may benefit cognitive development.
Outdoor Gym Equipment Trumps Indoor Gyms
In today’s screen-centered world, finding time for outdoor play can be challenging. However, prioritizing it is crucial for our overall well-being, especially for the children in our communities.
Studies show that school-aged children should aim for at least three hours of outdoor play daily. While this may seem like a lot, it greatly affects their physical and emotional health. Though your neighborhood rec center may offer an indoor gym, here are some specific reasons to choose outdoor fitness park equipment:
- Encourages curiosity: Children are natural explorers, and by taking them outside, you can spark their curiosity. Spending time in outdoor fitness spaces invites scientific exploration as they observe their environment.
- Promotes physical health: When children engage in outdoor activities like running, jumping, climbing, and playing sports, they develop gross motor skills and establish healthy active habits.
- Improves sleep: Studies have shown that children who play outdoors sleep better at night. This could be attributed to the physical activity, stress reduction, and exposure to natural light kids gain with outdoor play.
- Encourages healthy risk-taking: Outdoor play allows children to challenge themselves and take appropriate risks in a safe and supervised environment. Running faster, climbing higher, and jumping farther are just a few examples of activities that build confidence and resilience.
Play Mart and our Nature of Early Play line of products were founded on the philosophy that nature is the best playground. The PlayFit™ line of recreation equipment is constructed from durable Recycled Structural Plastic (RSP) but still holds the aesthetic of natural wood. This makes it a great complement to a fitness course through the woods or in other park environments. The playground equipment is centered around uniting the beauty of the earth with modern innovation to bring children the best of both worlds.
Creating a Park PlayFit™ Course
Creating a well-designed play space is essential for meeting the needs of every child. It offers a range of activities that both inspire and challenge while also motivating and engaging all children.
Choosing the perfect location for outdoor fitness equipment is crucial for creating a fun and safe environment for children. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
- Climate: Consider your region’s climate to determine the type of equipment and materials that will withstand the weather conditions. Whether it’s a cold, hot, temperate, or tropical climate, choosing durable materials like Play Mart’s RSP is essential for a successful playground.
- Landscape: The site’s landscape plays a significant role in choosing outdoor fitness equipment. Consider factors like hills, valleys, and rocky terrain to ensure the suitability of materials and prevent issues like rotting. Look for flat, well-vegetated areas that provide ample space for children to run and play safely. Surrounding the area with trees adds both beauty and shade.
- Soil and vegetation: Inspect and test the soil before installation to ensure it’s sturdy enough to handle the playground. Different soils provide varying amounts of nutrients and moisture, which can impact plant growth. The area’s natural plant life can influence the land’s suitability for a playground. Consider the presence of trees and other vegetation to create a beautiful and shaded environment.
- Public Accessibility: Easy access to the playground is crucial for visitors. Consider proximity to major roads and the availability of sidewalks, trails, and parking lots for cars and buses.
Consider recreational and educational goals when determining the best place to build your playground. Public green spaces, schools, community centers, and local businesses are all potential locations. Consider visibility, proximity to residential neighborhoods, and regulations by city governments.
Types of Physical Activity
A well-designed fitness park can result in a full-body workout! Best practices include offering a variety of play elements, such as climbing, swinging, sliding, and balancing.
Configurations that encourage running, chasing, exploring, and movement in general contribute to a dynamic play experience. It’s important to target each of the core fitness areas recommended by the CDC:
- Aerobic activity: When the outdoor workout equipment is well spaced, it encourages walking and running, a great way to increase heart rate for cardiovascular health.
- Muscle-strengthening: Activities like climbing, stepping, and pulling like the Rock Tower or Pipe Wall Climber.
- Balance and coordination: Many types of agility equipment require balance and coordination, for example, the Parallel Bars and Stump Walk.
Examples of Outdoor Fitness Equipment for a Complete Activity Park:
- Children can climb the Rock Tower and walk across the Quad Block Steppers to the Tornado, where they can slide across the rail and reach their final jump from the Vaulting Beam.
- Start with the Matterhorn, have children cross the Double Arch Climber, and arrive at the Cyclone where they can spin their way to a victory wave atop the Flag Staff.
- Kids can race their friends from the Castle Rock, balance across the Leaf Hoppers, and arrive at the Overhead Ladder, where they can challenge peers up the Bell Ringer Racer.
How to Find the Right Outdoor Fitness Equipment for Your Park
When investing in outdoor exercise equipment for your park or playground, making the right choice is crucial. However, a few factors must be considered before purchasing to ensure the equipment is safe, durable, and suitable for your intended users.
First and foremost, durability is key. Outdoor fitness equipment is exposed to the elements, so choosing materials like Play Mart’s RSP can withstand rain, snow, and sun is important. Don’t compromise on quality when it comes to durability.
Safety should also be a top priority. Look for equipment that has been specifically designed and tested to meet safety standards such as ASTM and CPSC. All PlayFit equipment meets or exceeds these standards.
Consider the cost, but don’t just focus on the initial price tag. Cheaper equipment may seem cost-effective but may require more frequent maintenance and replacement in the long run. On the other hand, higher-priced equipment may be more durable and require less maintenance, making them a more cost-effective option overall.
Lastly, if inclusivity is important to your park or rec center, choose equipment that is ADA accessible. By choosing equipment that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards, like the PlayFit line, you can ensure that individuals with disabilities can also enjoy your outdoor fitness space.
Get Your Community In Shape with Park Fitness Equipment
Outdoor exercise equipment promotes health and wellness in schools and communities. Play Mart is here to help parks and recreation facilities to plan, build, and integrate PlayFit equipment, providing new opportunities for kids and adults to be active, fit, and healthy.
Ready to explore the possibilities of an outdoor fitness playground? Contact Play Mart today!