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

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.

Cognitive Development

Aside from the physical benefits of kids’ workout equipment, the perks of getting little ones active reach 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.

Location Considerations

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Soil and vegetation: Inspect and test the soil before installation to ensure it’s sturdy enough to handle both the equipment and the number of children and caregivers you expect. Different soils impact plant growth, influencing the land’s suitability for a playground. Consider the presence of trees and other vegetation so your workout equipment for kids will be in a beautiful and shaded environment.
  4. 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:

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!

View our entire PlayFit™ Product Series.

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"Play Mart Inc. is truly the company you want to do business with when looking for commercial grade playground equipment.

Lesson learned: not all playground equipment is compatible with other equipment. Our HOA had a Play Mart set that was purchased in 2005 it was needing to be refurbished. Ryan Williams contacted me right away asking what he could do to help. Records hadn’t been kept so I was having difficulty finding what we had and what we could do. After sending pictures from my phone, Ryan took over giving us the original design blueprint! A detailed report on what we had and what needed to be replaced was soon in my hands.

We were elated to learn that some of our stuff was still under warranty! Options of what could be done and what must be done to ensure the safety of our children were outstanding! We were so pleased that the nightmare of searching for playground equipment was now over! The equipment is made in the USA too.

While we wait for delivery we can’t thank Ryan Williams enough for the care he took in making sure that our playground is safe! They also offer installation if you need that! Everything ships with detailed installation instructions like a picture book! Thank You Play Mart and Ryan for all of your professional help!"

Jeanette Bowen

"I'm not sure whether the kids would have caused damage to the playset at some point, but the playground survived the hurricane. Your RSP™ is amazing."

Tim H. Gateway Services Community Development District

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“I would just like to let you know Play Mart did a wonderful job on the packing/shipping and installation instructions. We have installed almost every manufacturer in the market and your company is the most installation friendly we have done in years.”

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“The contractor who assembled the set told me it was his first experience with recycled material in play sets and he was very impressed. He also told me it was very well packaged and user friendly for assembly.

It looks first class and blends in well with the wooded area surrounding our church. We like the fact we can accommodate so many kids with a set this size.”

Bruce P.

Topeka, KS

“This is cooler than big kids stuff!”

5 Year Old Child

Topeka, KS

“Congratulations on your extensive and impressive exhibit of your playground products. I was most impressed. If I were a child, I would spend a lot of time in the music section of your marvelous array of enticing things to do. But on the other hand, I could easily be enticed to the many other play opportunities for play and learning.

It is blatantly obvious that you have put a lot of careful thought into developing your engaging products for children. Congratulations and thank you for the tour of your exhibit at the trade show.”

Matthew Evans, FASLA Senior Landscape Architect & Horticulturist

US Capitol, Washington, DC

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to write a letter on behalf of Play Mart, Inc. On two different occasions in recent years, Play Mart constructed playground equipment on our school property. Play Mart representatives went out of their way to meet with the school playground committee so that we fully understand our options and the cost. We have been delighted with the equipment that Play Mart representatives recommended for our students. It is age appropriate and safe. We have had to make two minor repairs, which were quickly taken care of by the company.
In the process building the playground, we were very interested in using recycled materials. Availability of this via Play Mart was a big reason why we choose this company. Play Mart worked with us in obtaining exactly what we wanted. We were very pleased with the construction timeline and the value for the price. When we wanted to add more equipment, Play Mart was most helpful and made the changes cost effective for us. Our students spend many happy hours enjoying the playground.

We have been very happy with the entire project. It is with great satisfaction I write this letter on behalf of the company and their employees.”

Sister Laverne K., School Principal

Newark, DE

“We continue to be so pleased with our playscape! As soon as we open the door in preparation for outside play, the children head straight for the playscape. The teachers so enjoy watching the students play some of their favorite games which include: Pirate Ship (they all crowd on top of the playscape sailing off for adventure of the high seas), Shark! (similar to pirate ship but they all stand on top screaming “shark”), and Ice cream shop (sellers stand under the playscape and deliver ice cream cones to customers on the other side of the ‘counter’).
We thank you again for working so closely with us as we designed this safe and sturdy play area to fit the needs of our Nursery School. It has been one year and it still looks great, blending beautifully into our historic town green. Both our school and our community look forward to many, many more years of fun!”

Laurie H., Daycare Director

Washington, CT

“Our entire church is excited with the equipment and especially glad we saved 32,226 milk jugs from a landfill. We love the look of wood without the problems of termites and splintering.”

Joyce W.

Jacksonville, AR

“I wanted to drop you a quick note to commend you on your subcontractor’s performance…The combination of your quality equipment and the installation by Hammer Down has provided the staff, children and Marine Corp with an excellent play facility. The installation and application of the equipment has turned out superbly.  Hammer Down, Paul and his entire crew were pleasant to work with, knowledgeable of the equipment and codes and had an uncommon willingness to work well with us and other contractors. I commend them for an excellent install and terrific attitude.

As for the poured in place rubber; again a superb product paired with a great subcontractor. Clean Play, Allen and his crew provided a level of work that would be hard to surpass. The installation went smoothly and quickly. I appreciate their attention to detail and cleanliness. Though we may have stayed late, I never have an issue doing that for a contractor that works as hard and diligently as they did each and every day. There performance was outstanding and one I would look forward to seeing again.

I appreciate all of your help and you providing us with such high quality subcontractors. Thank you.”

Mike R., Superintendent

Sauer, Inc.