They’re sweeping the country—and the US is just following other countries’ leads: so called “playgrounds for adults” designed to helps adults get out and active. Are these outdoor gyms the answer for couch and mouse potatoes? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
On the plus side
• They’re a new way for sedentary adults to get outdoors and exercise—British research shows that 26% of those using them have never exercised before.
• They encourage walkers (including dog walkers) and runners to enhance their workouts.
• They “level the playing field” and offer adults similar to what we offer children—a chance for more spontaneous, playful, social physical activity… sort of.
• They are more visible to people than indoor gyms, and thus more likely to be used.
• They could be placed near children’s playgrounds, a boon to parents and grandparents who can work out while kids “work out” in their own space.
• They’re “free” for anyone to use.
• Unlike simple pull up bars and monkey bars, they come with instructions.
• They are more accessible than health clubs.
On the minus side
• They cost an average of $40,000 (in Los Angeles) to $75,000-$200,000 (in New York City).
• They will require upkeep to maintain moving parts.
• Like a health club, some people could feel intimidated by the equipment.
• Like a health club, there have been waiting lines for people to use the equipment.
• Like any outdoor exercise, some adults might be uncomfortable working out “in the open.”
• When not used for exercising, they can’t be used for anything else, are not attractive (in my view), and take up valuable public outdoor space in dense cities where space is at a premium.
• Some people require instructions for safe, effective use.
• Since they are used independently, they create no ongoing jobs for fitness trainers or instructors.
Another potential minus is the misnomer—as critics have pointed out, although they are called “adult playgrounds” and conjure up nostalgic visions of our childhood, these are really outdoor gyms, with gym-like equipment. They have none of the swings, slides, see-saws, or push-carousels that created the freedom and glee of our youth.
Do you have an adult playground in your community? Would you want one? Would you use one? Any ideas for how to make them even better?
If there’s no adult playground near you, or if they’re not for you, try using a park bench creatively instead!