The Evolution of Fitness Centers

I recently had the opportunity to present to a community group on behalf of the City of Bloomington, IL, Parks and Recreation Department.  While public speaking isn’t one of my favorite things to do, it’s a whole lot easier when it’s something I am truly passionate about…fitness and the facilities where fitness occurs.

While fitness facilities (whether they are called recreation centers, community centers, or athletic facilities) have been around a long time, it is hard for even the most unobservant to not notice how these facilities have evolved.  The era of blank walls, long corridors, rooms without windows, and dingy locker rooms are LONG gone!

So…what are the current trends in recreational center design?  Here are just a few…

  • Welcoming and inviting – The job of a fitness facility is to attract their community to a healthier lifestyle.  First we want to ‘invite’ them in, to introduce them to the fitness opportunities that are available to them.  Once inside, we want to ‘engage’ them with programs that meet their needs.  And once involved, continue to motivate and inspire them to meet their goals.
  • Open and transparent – We WANT people to see what is going on inside the building…for the people dropping of friends or family to realize there might be something happening inside that they would enjoy.  Again, it’s about exposing all who enter or roam the halls an opportunity see the fitness and wellness opportunities available to them.
  • A unique fitness experience – I am proof of a dedicated fitness participant who is comfortable in the most basic of fitness facilities.  But, what about the first time user (young or old)?  Creating places for people with differing abilities (and comfort levels) is imperative to ensuring as much participation as possible.
  • Social spaces – Why have a senior group meet at the local Hardee’s when they can spend time at the community center?  And, once we have them inside the building…see items 1 and 2 above!
  • Technology – from fitness classes being led from a video screen, to phone apps providing easy access to fitness routines, or gadgets that track your progress (think Fitbit), expect technology to continue to change how we live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Branding – think Best Buy or Target on steroids (probably not the best word to use for this topic)!  Remember when I mentioned we want to motivate and inspire?  We want to create environments that interact positively with its users…I always use the example of how a sunny day makes you feel vs. a rainy day.  We want these environments to mimic that sunny day!

I know from my own experience that a healthy lifestyle is gift to myself.  The goal of any fitness facility is to give that gift to everyone.

One thought on “The Evolution of Fitness Centers

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  1. This was so interesting to read! I don’t think I realized how much fitness centers have changed over the years until I read this. It seems the norm now to have window-walls and an open feeling to a gym or rec center, and it’s hard to remember what it was like when that wasn’t so commonplace. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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