A Future of Urban Fitness

Abstract

In modern urban life an inactive lifestyle has become the norm, with the consequential health impact that average life expectancy is now falling in many developed countries. In recent years cities worldwide have responded by seeking to provide greater access to exercise opportunities, including development of public outdoor gyms. Whilst a great initiative, these first and second generation outdoor gyms are typically rudimentary in their nature and often serve primarily to help the already fit get fitter.

For typical people, these public exercise installations present many challenges: self-consciousness, unfamiliarity with exercise routines and equipment, motivation and enjoying the exercise, and simply convenience of time, access, and even changing clothes.

Health Loop is a concept that holistically addresses the needs of typical city dwellers, providing an approachable, understandable, and enjoyable quick exercise environment.

Inspiration and Method

This project was intensely user centred, from research through to design. Firstly I travelled Scandinavia and parts of the USA observing and talking to users and potential users at outdoor gyms, exercise areas, and related urban environments. I also tried 25+ diverse exercise and related classes and activities for first-hand experience. Additionally, I read a lot of literature on behaviour change, gamification, and sports science to approach the problem with an informed perspective.

During the design phase, key ideas and possibilities were simulated and tested with target users, including using digital projections of displays, a working balance board and shoulder press machines, and proportion models of privacy screens.

Result

Health Loop is a deliberate set of six exercise stations and related urban furniture designed to allow anyone to get started with a ‘just a little’ exercise. Each set of three exercise stations can be completed in 5 minutes, providing a complete and fun lower or upper body workout, focused on real-world, useful fitness.

A digital signboard provides a quick-start interactive experience for each station, which is supported by an app for regular users. The stations are carefully designed to be intuitive to use, with a simple difficulty scale of 1-5, allowing users to progress.

The complete set of equipment and suggested layouts provide an approachable, understandable, and enjoyable opportunity for exercise in the everyday urban environment.