How Walkable Is Your Fitness Center?
By: Kelly Bonner
I know personally that I am much more apt to exercise if I can do it right outside my front door. If it requires me to pack a bag and remember all my gear and drive to a gym, it’s probably not going to happen. On the other hand though, if all I have to do is lace up my sneakers and head out the door, then there’s a much better chance I will actually do it. In essence, that’s what walkability means for a fitness or recreation center. In our house we like to use the term “uni-tasker” coined by Alton Brown from the show, Good Eats in reference to a kitchen tool that only has one use, and Alton isn’t a fan. In the case of walkability, a uni-tasker isn’t a good thing either. To promote health, one should not have to rely on transportation. You don’t want a stand-alone facility that requires you to drive there for that sole purpose; however, if I can leave my front door on foot, jog over to my local gym for a workout or a yoga class, hit the post office on my way there, and pick up a healthy snack at my local farmer’s market or grocery store on the way home, then we have a win for everyone. Not only will I be more likely to exercise because of the ease of access to the gym, but I will also continue to be active as I figuratively and possibly literally run my errands. Even if the initial intent is not the gym, its location and proximity to other retailers may prompt me to put it on my to-do list.
“There is scientific evidence that providing access to places for physical activity increases the level of physical activity in a community (1). The Task Force on Community Preventive Services strongly recommends creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity, in conjunction with a well-run communication and marketing campaign. A typical study of an intervention to create or enhance access to places for physical activity reports a 25% increase in physical activity levels (2).”
The statement stems from street safety and sidewalk access; walkability can still go further than that. If you have easily checked those first two things off the list, then take a look at some of these walkability must haves:
- Lighting: Is the route to and from your facility well-lit so that all individuals feel safe?
- Curb appeal: Is the route not only just doable but is it pleasant and desirable? Are people required to traverse over cracked sidewalks, debris, or weeds creeping up? Or is it a pleasant view with plenty of focal points to encourage my daughter’s favorite game of “I Spy”?
- Trash receptacles and benches: Imagine that I just completed a run or long walk from my house; maybe I want to take a breather for a minute before I hit that yoga class or perhaps a senior adult would walk from store to store without using a vehicle. Benches along the way would provide a place to rest between destinations. If I did hit the local smoothie bar after my class, I certainly want some well-placed trash cans so I don’t have to carry my empty cup all the way home.
Those little things could mean all the difference between your fitness and recreation facility having great walkability. Take a look around today and see what you can do to make your fitness facility more walkable. For more information on walkability, check out these links below: