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08.08.2013 - Ausgabe: 4/2013

Europe’s largest motor activities park

The motor activities park that has been constructed around the pond leisure area in Gamlitz with its 30 workout stations and nearly 100 exercise elements is the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe.


A holiday in Gamlitz, in the South Styrian region of Austria, has much to offer. But Styria’s principal wine-growing town is not just the perfect destination for tourists and those with a fine palate, it also has recently become a magnet for those seeking to improve their fitness and train their motor abilities. The idea is to encourage the local residents and visiting tourists to take exercise. Under the supervision of the Linz-based sports scientist Dr. Roland Werthner, a motor activities park has been created around the attractive Gamlitz pond site on an area of 17 hectares that with its 30 workout stations and more than 200 pieces of equipment is now by far the most extensive fitness park in Europe.

“During the work on flood protection measures, we had the opportunity to implement this major project. The motor activities park represents the next stage in our strategy to promote health and the tourist trade throughout the region,” explained Karl Wratschko, the mayor of Gamlitz. The implemented project is an important high quality asset that enhances the range of local attractions currently on offer. “Because of the already fantastic surroundings of the pond leisure site, which already attracts numerous tourists and locals alike with its daily opportunities for walks and swimming, and sporting activities such as beach volleyball and skating, no other solution would have been appropriate,” states Roland Werthner.

Gamlitz’s new attraction cost some €250,000 to construct. The municipality is providing half of this, while the other 50% will be covered by subsidies. Everyone can use it completely free of charge.

Gamlitz will become an exercise paradise. There are innovative climbing frames, swings, balance beams, rope nets etc. that are designed to help users improve their coordination and stamina over the long term.
“The unusual aspect of the motor activities park is the enormous target group that it is intended to attract. It has been devised to be used by persons from all age groups and with any level of ability who want to exercise, from kindergarten toddler, through recreational and top-level athletes, to the elderly. It was a very real challenge to make this possible,” continued Roland Werthner. The sports scientist has already helped put in place several motor activity parks in Upper and Lower Austria based on a concept that he has himself developed and Gamlitz is another of his projects. The differences between amateur and professional athlete using the park only become apparent with regard to the number of times they repeat exercises, their speed and their skill. It is specifically these aspects that the complex training offered by the motor activities park has been conceived to promote. The workout stations not only provide fun and pleasure, but can also be used for genuine, unlimited and individually-tailored training. This means that the workout possible in the park is appropriate, for example, for players in football clubs in all leagues and also for specialist athletes, such as ski jumpers and alpine downhill stars. It is estimated that 50,000 visitors use the motor activities park in Gamlitz annually.

The 30 workout stations, which offer exercises such as balancing, stretching, strength training, climbing and others that require greater adroitness, make targeted training for any purpose possible. While the motor activities park was in the course of construction, a team of personal coaches, whose services can be booked inexpensively online, was created. “This provision of personal trainers was an aspect that was particularly important to us as training under professional guidance is all the more exciting,” stated Mayor Karl Wratschko. In addition to its tourists, Gamlitz has a particular interest in attracting sports clubs that play games such as football, handball and volleyball and that will find ideal conditions for training in the motor activities park and the other sports facilities in the area.

There is one other aspect that makes the motor activities park in Gamlitz so very different to many other amenities of this kind and that is the fact that there is no entry charge. “Everyone is free to use the motor activities park and the whole site with its opportunities for swimming and walking and we charge them nothing for this. We think this is the least we owe our guests and our citizens,” clarified Mayor Wratschko. The only part of the site where there is a charge is the new caravan park with its magnificent view of the ponds that is proving popular with campers.

Other projects

The main objective of the municipality with the motor activities park is to secure and provide a differentiated range of leisure and recreational facilities and to develop a health-enhancing environment for its local residents and the visitors to the Southern Styrian ‘Weinland’ nature park. For this purpose, it will be necessary to establish viable, long term local networks within the region.
There is thus to be greater cooperation in order to realise the regional and nationwide projects
• ‘Natural health’ (Blühende Gesundheit) that is to provide for special sports science-based exercise options in the motor activities park, extend know how in health care and promote a greater health awareness among the population
• ‘Nature park accessibility (Barrierefreier Naturpark); this will also make the motor activities park accessible for those with physical disabilities
• Natura 2000; involvement and consultation with the Natura 2000 biodiversity representatives of the region with regard to the planning and development of the Natura 2000 area of Gamlitzbach
• And in projects designed to promote regional tourism.

The strategy is to create an extensive range of options
• by constructing a motor activities park (i.e. an attractive, large scale exercise site in the natural surroundings designed on the basis of sports science theory with some 40 workout stations and 100 separate pieces of exercise equipment (must be suitable for use by individuals, athletes, groups, schools etc.)
• by extending training and know how in health care and health promotion
• by appropriate development of the Gamlitzbach Natura 2000 site and creating three to four ‘model sites’ in the Gamlitz-Ehrenhausen area.

“Everyday activities, such as walking or jogging on the street, are not suitable for enhancing coordination. Improvements to coordination are seen only when specially designed new exercises are undertaken or certain obstacles are overcome. Every minute of creatively completed exercise and every appropriate variation of movements results in effects that last a lifetime (better coordination, greater strength, improved quality of life, improved concentration and learning capacity, less risk of accidental injury, lower risk of osteoporosis etc.). Every single intrinsically motivated minute of exercise that is undertaken with enjoyment will additionally potentiate these effects.
Because of the way they are organised and their emphasis on competitiveness, the traditional locations that offer opportunities for sport and exercise, such as sports centres and playing fields, can never provide the same degree of challenge and variability as a motor activities park that is sited in the middle of an attractive natural landscape. In addition, many exercises and the variations on these that are necessary cannot be performed with the standard exercise equipment while much of the time available has to be spent in erecting and dismantling this.
If such facilities could be located in the direct vicinity of educational institutions – schools and kindergartens – multiple benefits would accrue: the daily use of a neighbouring motor activities park during the longer morning breaks and visits to the freely accessible motor activities park in the afternoon. The head of a school complex at which a pilot project was installed (motor activities park around a secondary school and a kindergarten) reported after a six-month evaluation phase that there was an average five-hour increase per week in the duration that the children took physical exercise.

All local authorities recognise the value of playgrounds as enhancements to their infrastructure. Just like playgrounds, motor activity parks could become part of the standard facilities offered by a municipality or urban district. The corresponding exercise opportunities and the additional time spent in exercise are not merely important for children”, said sports scientist Dr. Roland Werthner in conclusion.

Image copyright
Photos: Gamlitz motor activities park

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