Exercise and unwind in the Campus park: The BUGA [Federal horticultural show] Heilbronn has come up with innovative sports facilities under the oldest trees in town, created based on the unusual combination of a gradation tower and calisthenics facilities.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
Fitness trails and exercise opportunities for senior citizens are currently springing up in public parks throughout Germany. The numerous positive, healthy effects of exercise are today medically proven. Exercise, wellbeing and social integration have a positive effect on physical fitness and mental wellbeing and make an important contribution to good health as a whole. Training with outdoor fitness equipment strengthens muscles, stabilises joints and improves coordination and balance. Together, these aspects are an optimal method of avoiding injury.
Why does the TU need an outdoor fitness park? The sport centre of the TU Braunschweig is occupied with the ongoing observation and analysis of the sport market. “During this work we noticed a trend which has become consistently more apparent over the last years –outdoor activity of all kinds. Many people prefer to carry out their training, independent of whether this is jogging, Nordic walking or climbing, in the fresh air and nature instead of indoors. This trend has also reached the enormous keep-fit market. The optimal solution is offered, therefore, by an outdoor fitness park,” explains Lutz Stöter, head of the sport centre.
Delphi forecast surveys carried out on the topic of sport facility development support this assumption. “In addition, with moderate probability and rather low intensity, outdoor sport facilities will develop in future away from standard, large-area, rectangular and level-surfaced facilities towards modelled sport and exercise landscapes.” (Grundlagen zur Weiterentwicklung von Sportanlagen, Wetterich, Eckl, Schabert, Sportverlag Strauß, Köln 2009, page 7)
The first university outdoor fitness park was opened on September 1, 2010 and includes 16 training machines which allow the students of the TU Braunschweig to stay in shape. Whether bank presses, butterfly or lower leg stretches, students can lift, twist and stretch until 10 p.m., all outdoors. The concept allows for training in any weather. “Just as with our old fitness equipment, all exercises focus on muscle generation and improved condition. As is often the case in life, the start is difficult for many users, but with sensible training units and a modest increase in intensity, the objective is sure to be achieved. All our outdoor fitness equipment is TÜV-GS certified!“, states Frederic Müller, Managing Director of the Fritz Müller GmbH company which manufactures the training and leisure time equipment. Naturally, the fitness park also serves as a additional impulse for joggers and walkers on the Finnbahn track. The different exercise equipment allows training of the whole body which can be supplemented with endurance training on the outdoor stepper, for example.
The fitness park also has a multi-functional floor area where other sports such as step aerobic, yoga, martial arts and spinal gymnastics for example can also be trained outdoors. The floor area is coated with a absorbing surface made by the Beco Company to ensure that all training is carried out with low impact to the joints.
The outdoor fitness park is surrounded by a 250 meter long extension of the Finnbahn. The track filling is dry wood with special shock-absorbing properties, supplied by the Öcocolor Company. “Running comfort like being on woodland paths – and even better. Active runners feel at home on Öcolour tracks and surfaces. In contrast to natural forest tracks, there are only small surface irregularities so that the danger of twisting an ankle is minimal. In addition, Öcolour floorings also reduce strain on the knee joints which are subject to high stress during running on asphalt or tartan track surfaces. Whether Finnenbahn, exercise courses or trails, walking or hiking paths: The natural shock absorption provided by Öcocolor is kind to joints, backs and the whole musculoskeletal system of both young and old athletes during sport, fitness and leisure activities,” states Katrin Pogan, Managing Director of the Öcocolor GmbH & Co. KG. Runners suffering from problems with their joints can carry out healthy training on these running surfaces. Advanced runners can also optimally improve their training on this strongly yielding surface as coordination of the feet is given special focus. Every athlete can minimise the risk of injury through regular training on this surface.
“It is of higher quality and more challenging for users”, explains Lutz Stöter. “Athletes sink in deeper which is more demanding on the muscles – perfect for running training.”
The outdoor fitness park is part of a concept which is focussed on use of the outdoor facilities throughout the whole year. Within the framework of this concept, a 1000-meter-long floodlit Finnbahn was already built in 2006. This course also makes health-oriented running or walking possible in winter. In addition, an floodlit all-weather soccer pitch was also installed which can also be used all year round.
The idea for an outdoor fitness park came to Lutz Stötzer during a trip to Tel Aviv. “There was a similar facility there on the beach which was very popular and well frequented.” The head of the sport centre is convinced that the new facilities will be used by students and employees of the TU and other research institutes as well as members of the university sport club USC, long after summer has ended.
The cost of the outdoor fitness park was budgeted at 150.000 Euro. “Realisation of this idea was only made possible as the Müller Company, based in Mönchengladbach, Germany, provided the fitness equipment on a permanent loan basis and will test new equipment with us in future", explained Stöter. The surface for the Finnbahn was donated by the Öcocolor Company from Destedt, Germany. “Due to its uniqueness, the park is a reference project for university sport in Germany,” concludes Lutz Stöter.
Photos: Lutz Stöter, Öcocolor