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19.04.2022 - Ausgabe: 2/2022

Urban sports – areas designed to get people active and make exercise fun

© areporter / stock.adobe.com

The term urban sport has become widely used in recent years and basically stands for sporting activities in an urban environment. Most of the sports and types of exercise that fall under this category were originally practised directly in the urban environment and have been adapted to the existing constructional and structural conditions there. In many cases, the focus is on one's own physical fitness, body control and dexterity, but also on the use of for example various forms of skateboards, bicycles, pedal scooters or roller skates. In addition to the use of the aforementioned wheeled or roller sports equipment, well-known sports include, for example: calisthenics, parkour, ninja sports or urban climbing. As social media has become tremendously important in youth culture, urban sports and associated types of exercise are very popular nowadays because of their photogenic nature.

While many of these sports and types of exercise have originated in public spaces, there is often some conflict involved when practising them, and in many cases they are also very risky, especially for beginners and inexperienced athletes. For instance, parkour or BMX require a lot of practice and good body control in order to be able to practise these sports appropriately and without injury. Pictures and videos on the internet, however, prompt many copycats to try to perform the tricks of the "professionals" as well, which can pose a high risk, especially in the ordinary urban environment. Moreover, exercising outside of designated areas, e.g. on public squares and streets, children's playgrounds or under bridges, often leads to disputes with road users, passers-by or law enforcement officers.

It is therefore advisable to respond in urban planning to the ever-growing number of enthusiastic "urban athletes" and to provide them with areas that have been specially designed for them to practise their sporting activities. 

Pump tracks and skate parks are very suitable facilities providing attractive areas for skaters, bikers and other roller sports enthusiasts. Given an attractive design, they will find plenty of challenges and will be able to pursue their activities undisturbed. In addition, proper construction significantly reduces the risk of injury. In recent years, many new pump tracks have been built and skate parks have increasingly replaced the old skate facilities with ramps from the 1990s. A large combined facility also makes perfect sense in order to provide a wide range of activities for a large number of users.

The sport of parkour actually originated outside of fixed areas, but in recent years many attractive and heavily frequented sports facilities have been created that make it possible to practise this type of exercise. Novice traceurs can get started there and more experienced athletes can practice their tricks and ways of moving. It is above all the combination of risk assessment, body experience and body control that has turned parkour into a very interesting subject for sports education. Especially young people and young adults have become more and more interested in this type of sport in recent years.

Calisthenics facilities have also become an integral part of the design of exercise areas. The combination of fitness training and body control is very popular with the young population, which means that the corresponding areas are often heavily frequented until late in the evening. The aforementioned photogenic nature also plays a very important role in this context. A few years ago, climbing frames on children's playgrounds were often "misused" for calisthenics; today, specially designed equipment can be obtained from various suppliers and installed in public spaces. 

Urban climbing is also very popular with young and old these days. There is a whole range of opportunities to implement this in public spaces in a safe way and without the need for extensive equipment. Of course, these differ from facilities in climbing gyms or climbing areas, for which certain safety ropes are required. However, with suitable fall protection and other safety features, there are definitely challenging and varied installations for everyone. 

Urban sports will certainly continue to play a major role in the coming years, so every city and municipality should strive to offer attractive and diverse areas for as many sports enthusiasts as possible.


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