Saturday, 4th May 2024

Outdoor gyms

One growing feature of the town landscape is the increasing number of outside multi-station gyms. They seem to be springing up all over the place, put there by enthusiastic councils who have got the right idea – in that they are trying to get more people exercising. Parks are their favoured sites. However it is a rarity to see anyone actually using this equipment which makes me wonder how much they are used – and what beneficial effects might come from doing so.

Frequency of use

There is not a lot of data about how much Outdoor Fitness Equipment (OFE) is actually used. On study from Taiwan has shown a  disappointing use of such equipment.  Results indicate that the OFE in this park attracted variable use, with higher rates in the early morning and late afternoon. During these peak-hour observations, approximately 12 users per hour used the OFE, with the majority being females and seniors. Most OFE users interacted with less than three of the available six OFE stations. Furthermore, users spent an average of less than nine minutes on all OFE stations combined. The authors concluded that users did not interact with OFE at rates to produce a sufficient level of physical activity during their park visit.

Vox Pop. The bystander view

Here are some comments from an online discussion Group:

  • I walk past one every day to and from work. I’ve always been tempted to try it, it’s on the way back from the train station so why not? But every time I pass it there’s always teens on it either misusing the equipment or children playing on it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone ever use it as a gym.
  • I see it being used occasionally, often early in the morning – joggers stopping in and using bits of kit. It is a nice idea, they seem to mainly rely on resistance so it is sit ups and pull-ups etc. I bet people are put off it being so public though.
  • I don’t use it because the weather is normally terrible, there are usually dodgy looking kids around and I don’t believe that it achieves much.
  • I’ve tried it once and managed about a single pull-up before I realised that I am exceedingly weak and I am not as ok with being watched by a group of teenagers as I had first assumed.
  • My local one is next to a kids’ park, so it feels a bit weird, but I do see the occasional parent/older person using it. Wish they’d just made adult-sized slides and swings instead!
  • When I was in Gran Canaria I was staying at a non touristy area. On the coastline they had those outdoor gym pieces along the coastal path nearby and lots of elderly people were using them. I thought it was quite novel as I’d never seen these equipment before.
  • Back here in the UK, there’s one park near my parents that has these equipment. I’ve never seen anyone use it when I walk my dog there. However, I tried them out of curiosity.
  • Never seen anyone use it………..
  • There’s one near me that is almost always being used by people exercising. Mostly older people.

So public general opinion does not give OFE a ringing endorsement. But for those who do use it, what is the benefit?

Measurable benefits.

A study of 149 middle aged and older volunteers randomly assigned the subjects to two weekly sessions of resistance training or no added exercise. After eight weeks the OFE group showed significantly increased muscle mass and strength in both arms and legs and evidence of increased physical fitness – all fairly predictable for any monitored exercise programme.


OFE can certainly help to increase physical fitness – why wouldn’t it? But in practice does it and is it worth the expenditure? Sorry to be negative but I doubt it. Our climate does not encourage routine use of OFE and what evidence there is suggests that if it is used, the users don’t really try hard enough to make a difference. The idea is appealing and the creation of such exercise opportunities very creditable – but probably a waste of valuable taxpayers’ money. The money would be better spent on making our roads safer for cyclists.

What do you think

I would be very interested in your thoughts – so please respond!

3 responses to “Outdoor gyms”

  1. Maurice Shakespeare says:

    Gardening is the best all round exercise for both body and mind.

    If you haven’t got a garden find someone elderly who has and give them a hand. Who knows you might even be able to use some of it as a mini allotment for your own produce and you’ll be helping someone stay in their own home for longer.

  2. Richard Crook says:

    I totally agree with what you say. I have never seen anyone using the facility at the Alton sports Center, which I look out onto, from the Rehab gym windows every week.

  3. Patric Hinde says:

    Makes one wonder whether jogging around the park a couple of times a week, passing the OFEs doesn’t do just as much good compared with those who dream using the OFEs when no one is looking.

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