What is an Outdoor Gym?

Dan Cavallari

An outdoor gym is a fitness area, usually built in a public space such as a park, in which users can perform a workout on any number of fitness machines specifically designed for use outside. The outdoor gym must be built to resist damage from regular exposure to sunlight, rain, snow, and other inclement weather, as well as moisture from humidity and other sources. The machines are designed in the same manner as indoor fitness machines in many cases, though it is rare to see fitness machines that require electricity in an outdoor gym.

Playground equipment like monkey bars can be used for pull-ups.
Playground equipment like monkey bars can be used for pull-ups.

Flyweight machines and other types of weight machines are most commonly included in an outdoor gym setup. The general public is welcome to use the machines during normal operating hours, or in some cases at any time of day, though it is advisable to only use the equipment with a spotter nearby in case of an accident or injury. The weights of the machines can be adjusted, just as they can in an indoor gym. They may even be placed strategically to form a logical workout when one goes from one exercise to another.

The equipment is sometimes designed in a similar way as a child's playground; the materials used for the construction of the machines must be water-resistant or waterproof to discourage rusting and corrosion, and very often the ground around the equipment is made from a flexible or shock absorbing material, such as rubber or even simply wood chips or gravel. The outdoor gym in a particular public space is often designed to include as few moving parts as possible to avoid premature decay or breakage, and stretching stations are very often included in the gym set up as well. Most exercise machines or stations feature printed instructions that outline how to use the equipment properly.

Similar to the concept of the outdoor gym is the fitness trail, another type of exercise area that is often built in public spaces such as parks or hiking trails. These fitness trails feature several obstacles spaced along a trail, usually several hundred feet apart. Each specific fitness area, or stop, features a different challenge with posted instructions and all the necessary equipment to perform the exercise. The features at each stop may include simple exercises such as push ups, or more difficult exercises such as monkey bars or dangling rungs that one needs to navigate across in order to complete the exercise.

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