Usage analysis of fitness parks in public spaces

Fitness parks for adults or pensioners and multi-generational parks are representative of a change in the perception of what constitutes public space.

Usage analysis of fitness parks in public spaces

The question of how the range of different exercises is received was investigated in several exemplary studies. As the manufacturer and developer of the exercise concept “4Fcircle”, the company Playparc underwent a period of self-analysis. The end product is the presentation of the Playparc GmbH “Nutzungsanalyse 2011” (2011 Usage Analysis). Twenty-one pages containing the results of empirical data collected by a survey relating to planning, site location, usage behaviour and technology from 4Fcircle sites in Germany.

Playparc sent out requests to 69 selected 4Fcircle site operators and received 29 completed surveys back. The selection process for the customers / operators contacted for the survey took into account whether Playparc had direct contacts for the respective 4Fcircle installations.

Fact checking

Is the size of the fitness park site a condition for good usage?
Playparc is repeatedly asked whether the size of the course affects the usage, or what size makes sense for a fitness course in conjunction with good usage. After analysing the available information, it must be established that the size of an installation does have a bearing on the usage.
Playparc has three sizes of fitness courses: 5-8; 9-12 and 13 or more items of equipment in each size respectively. It was ascertained that the frequency of use in both of the larger versions is somewhat higher than with the smaller version. This difference is, however, marginal.

Who is giving impetus?
For the most part these initiatives are put into action by the urban green space planning office and town sports departments. They also play a key role in the subsequent planning and realisation stages of the projects. The percentage of specified / participating “political figures” is certainly worth mentioning and one can deduce from their involvement that the topic “fitness courses” is gaining momentum as a voluntary task with the government. What is noticeable is that the impetus provided by the “citizens” is negligible. During the planning stage, however, this is of great importance. During this stage the fact is hammered home that there are citizen participation models. Playparc knows from experience that this can lead to a greater degree of acceptance and, consequently, to better usage. It is also remarkable that the building authorities play no part at all in the instigation of these projects. This contradicts experiences from the playground sector where it is mostly the building authorities that are the driving force behind the construction.


Why?
An important question is the understanding of the underlying reason for getting involved in the construction of a 4Fcircle site in general. The theme “Exercise in natural surroundings” constitutes the most important reason for getting involved in fitness parks. The necessity to create opportunities to exercise for as large a proportion of the population as possible in terms of a ‘Generational Park’ is the main reason for the planning and realisation of 4Fcircle installations in Germany. Obviously planners and the relevant local authorities have been aware of the need for fitness parks for some time now, as can be seen in the frequent use of the phrase “long-term planning”.

Is the location of a fitness course actually important for the usage?
The location has a special significance when it comes to usage – at least according to the frequent, public assumption. Is this assumption correct? Is it possible to prove this? Playparc asked those surveyed where their installations were located and used the responses to compare the frequency of use across all sites. This analysis showed that installations located in schools or clinics enjoy a comparably high frequency of use. In the public spaces, sites located in a central position boast the highest frequency of use. These are followed by those sites in the regions in the outskirts and in nearby holiday areas and, finally, those situated in forest areas. This result supports the main argument that exercise must be made available where there are people and where these people live and work. Then the exercise options provided will be accepted.

Integration of third parties
The study showed that an introduction of third party (sports clubs, groups for senior citizens and sports groups, school classes, municipal sports clubs, physiotherapists, etc.) brings with it an increase in the utilisation of the installation. This confirms that an active approach by the site operator is an important component in ensuring the site is well used. As easy and plausible as it sounds, it isn’t always a matter of course that the operator will actively promote the site to potential users.

Who uses the sites?
In terms of the figures, there is a clear picture depicting athletically-ambitious people being the main users seeking out and using the installations. The next largest group of users was children and families according to the views of those surveyed. The next largest group is clubs and school classes.
The public perception of the increasingly important senior citizens user group fell some way short of the average in this survey. Playparc attributes this to the planning premises of the past eight years in which this target group has played a relatively minor role. With the introduction of new products in the mobilisation area, 4Fcircle is now able to embrace this target group more effectively.
 

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