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It doesn't always have to be a stadium - compact exercise modules for public use

© playparc GmbH

The provision of good and attractive sport and exercise facilities should be an important aspect of all infrastructure planning by towns and local authorities. But there is a widely diverse range of opinions on the form that such facilities should take. Nowadays, the whole population is involved when it comes to planning improvements to sports infrastructure - this includes clubs, professionals, amateurs and those for whom sport is a leisure activity. The challenge is to reconcile the needs of all these different interest groups, particularly in view of the fact that the various types of sport and exercise that people practise are continually increasing.

Many still consider the standard pattern for a public sports facility to be a football pitch, perhaps combined with features for light athletics. In the main, facilities like this are used by clubs and schools. Should there be times when these are not in use by these, these can also be utilised by others for recreational purposes, assuming they are publicly accessible. Sport stadiums that are financed by local authorities are made available without any specific restrictions for use by the general public.

Sport and exercise have become essential aspects of our current lifestyle. It is not just the pleasure in physical activity that provides the incentive; there are the beneficial health and the social effects that also motivate people to undertake sport and exercise in public. And not necessarily as the members of a club; they will exercise on their own and like to be able to do it whenever and wherever. This means that the concept of what constitutes a suitable communal sports facility has changed dramatically over the years. In addition to the necessary installations for sports clubs and schools - in other words, large sports fields, stadiums and sports halls - the provision of sport and exercise areas for part-time sportspersons is becoming increasingly vital. These will be spaces dedicated to exercise or specific forms of sport and facilities that can be used by everyone - suitable for all ages, genders while also being inclusive.

The relevance of such facilities for the population as a whole is growing and thus becoming an increasingly essential feature of infrastructure planning. Large, multifunctional sports grounds and parks offer a viable solution but cannot be set up everywhere. Local resources are often insufficient for major projects of this kind while densification in inner cities means that in such contexts there is simply not enough space. In order to establish an infrastructure that will encourage sport and exercise, the recreational facilities should not be located on the outskirts of a town. Residents like facilities that are near where they live and that older and not so mobile individuals can also easily access. The best sites are smaller parks, next to a public children's playground or along a frequently used jogging trail. These compact sport and exercise modules can offer a variety of options and can be used by all.

Of course, such small facilities will not appeal to everyone looking to play sport or exercise so that they need to be planned to include as many different types of equipment as possible and be multigenerational. The form that such compact public exercise modules take can differ widely and there are many ways to ensure that they appeal to as many potential users as possible. In the following are a few examples.


Outdoor fitness and exercise trails

For several years now, public fitness and exercise trails have represented a notable feature of communal sport infrastructure. As successors to the former constructed jogging trails that used to be called in Germany a 'Trimm Dich-Pfad', they offer users a wide range of exercise options with extensive types of equipment suitable for different abilities. Multigenerational facilities - derisively called 'pensioner playgrounds' by some - provide even simple but effective exercise options that are principally designed for older or handicapped persons - in other words, these will appeal to a group that otherwise would have no particularly rapport with sport and exercise. In order to involve these, equipment should be provided that offers easily learned forms of exercise. On the other hand, it is crucial to attract those with greater exercise capacities so that fitness equipment offering degrees of difficulty that suit this group should also be provided. The very best kind of fitness trail will provide many different forms of equipment and training options and thus will be used by as many seeking recreational exercise as possible. It is possible to install such facilities in compact areas or as individual stations along a trail.


'Motorikparks' are individually designed outdoor exercise zones that are similar to a certain extent to fitness trails. However, in this case, the focus is not only on physical activity but on training motor skills. So physical exercise is combined with balance, coordination, rhythmic and sensory exercises. Motorikparks tend to incorporate playful elements that also appeal to children and that are not often provided in the case of fitness trails. At the same time, it is quite possible to combine exercise trail and Motorikpark features and this will significantly extend the scope of potential users.


Public outdoor callisthenics facilities have been popular for several years now. They can be installed in limited spaces and their upkeep is not particularly expensive or time-consuming. While it is true that the user group is mainly restricted to young people and young adults, it is also the case that public facilities designed for this target group tend to be rare - while the exercise facilities that they actually use are even rarer. The acceptance of callisthenics facilities is generally very good and there are those who are quite happy to simply watch the users as they go through their callisthenic exercises.

Mini games fields

Although there are plenty of football pitches and sports halls that can be used by sports clubs almost everywhere, there are many people who simply want to kick a ball or shoot a basket when they feel the need for it. But that is not so easy for them. Pitches and sport halls are frequently occupied by schools and clubs and spontaneous use is only possible anyway if general public access is permitted. There are public football pitches that are also supplied with basketball stands but local noise prevention regulations often mean that these are reserved for use by children under the age of 14 years. Older age groups have no idea where they can go. However, mini games fields where anyone can play soccer, basketball or volleyball have already been provided for the general public for quite a while. These often have artificial turf and can also be covered. Some facilities have electronic access systems; user groups can register in advance and then have exclusive use of the games field for a set time. 

Parkour parks

Parkour is a form of exercise that has recently attracted considerable attention. Although a facility specifically designed to be used for parkour actually contradicts the essential nature of the activity, the number of parkour parks being installed in suitable sites is growing. Parkour parks are not intended to be used only by experienced traceurs but everyone is encouraged to have a go. During parkour exercise, users learn to assess their own abilities, overcome limitations and acquire coordination. Parkour facilities can take very different forms but can also be constructed where space is limited and can be made to conform to the urban environment.


Compact public exercise modules can have many faces. There is no doubt that there are other options in addition to those described above while the provision of a wide variety of such facilities would be desirable everywhere. The predominant requirement is that spaces for sport and exercise are made ubiquitous and that these are accessible for everyone. In our increasingly congested towns and cities, it would be advisable to provide as many of these compact modules as possible to supplement large, multifunctional facilities and thus provide the necessary diversity and appeal to as many individuals as possible. There can be little doubt that the popularly of sport and exercise in public spaces will increase in future.


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