Exercise and mobility in the urban environment 2020

Wherever he goes, Ex-Talking-Heads frontman David Byrne always takes a bicycle with him as part of his luggage.

Exercise and mobility in the urban environment 2020

His observations demonstrate that pedalling away can encourage the mind to roam freely. In Asia, the population can be seen practising Tai Chi in public parks. Nordic walking has become a favourite pastime in European cities. Young people prefer to get their exercise jogging, bouldering or slacklining. As far as those in the ‘best years of their life’ are concerned, adult playgrounds are flavour of the month. How we will continue to get our exercise in the future in the urban environment? In the following, you will find the views of local authorities, researchers and industry representatives.

With the postindustrial restructuring of the urban landscape since the 1970s, exercise and sport have come to determine the organisation of public spaces. The inner city, with its cultural inheritance, provides the backdrop for physical training games, dance and fashionable new forms of sport and has become stage for prestigious sporting events. Stadiums are no longer merely venues for sport-related activities but have become the representative arenas in which postindustrial societies do battle with other contenders. However, the competition between cities worldwide to play host to high profile sports events does have its downside – it can result in neglect of sports and exercise facilities in less prominent parts of our towns and cities. This is the opinion of Jürgen Funke-Wieneke and Gabriele Klein, the editors of the book "Bewegungsraum und Stadtkultur" [Room for exercise and urban culture].

The publication issued by the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia under the title “Bewegung in der Stadt. Bewegung, Spiel und Sport im Wohnungsnahbereich“ [Urban exercise. Exercise, play and sport close to residential areas] deals with the relevant topics. Daily life in the urban environment is being increasingly characterised by a lack of exercise and the associated deterioration of health. Exercise, play and sport are at the core of a comprehensive policy designed to transform people and society. This is to be achieved by measures that are not alone aimed at promoting physical and psychological wellbeing but also at encouraging communication and social integration. The main objectives of the all-embracing tasks and policies constituting an integrated strategy that has the objective of sponsoring urban sport and exercise options must be to make life in the urban environment pleasant, diverse, energetic, socially active and worth living. This means that it is also essential to provide spaces for encounters, play, relaxation and exercise for less mobile individuals, such as children, young people, the elderly and handicapped near residential areas.

But if people are to exercise, they need the space in which to do this. There are purpose-built sport facilities and leisure infrastructures, including parks, playgrounds and cycle paths, but also other public spaces, such as roads, woods and fields, that can be used for sports and physical exercise activities. The EU-sponsored IMPALA project has collated good practice experience in the planning, financing, construction and management of leisure-time sports and exercise facilities and has drawn up guidelines based on these. The City of Vienna participated in the preparation of the guidelines.

Although there will continue to be organised sporting events in future, provisions must be made to accommodate the new types of sporting activities and the wishes of those who want to exercise in non-defined and non-structured environments. The urban landscape is being dominated by the latest exercise trends, such as Tai Chi in the park and Nordic walking. Younger individuals prefer jogging, bouldering and slacklining. Playground@Landscape has collected views and opinions on how we will exercise and move within the urban environment in future.

Views and opinions

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Reinhardt, Scientific Head of the Foundation for Future Studies:
“There will be an increasing need among the population for physical exercise to compensate for the static monotony of their everyday working lives and passive consumption of the media during their leisure times. And there is practically no limit as far as the possible spectrum of activities is concerned. Here at the Foundation for Future Studies, we assume that both relaxing and restorative activities (such as taking walks and Tai Chi) and activities requiring more physical exertion – from the new types of exercise like slacklining through to the more established forms of team sports – will become very popular. Of particular importance here will be not just the health-promoting aspects but also the way in which physical exercise can be combined with opportunities for social contact. For the older generations, in particular, we are predicting an increase in socialising and improvements in levels of physical fitness. Urban administrators and local authorities should make greater provision for these developments in their future plans.”

Dr. Gerd Landsberg, Executive Member of the Committee of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB)
“Imagine it is seven o’clock in the morning in an urban park in China. Just as on every other morning, the rush hour has already started in the areas surrounding the park: there are traffic jams, car horns, apparently suicidally-minded pedestrians and cyclists dodging among the vehicles, clouds of exhaust fumes and protective mouth masks. And in the middle of all this hectic activity there are hundreds of people in the park, among whom the elderly are well represented. These are together going through the ancient and silent exercise movements that constitute the art of Tai Chi, seemingly oblivious of the chaos around them. Could this be what German cities might be like in the not too distant future?
Exercise and mobility in the urban setting are at the centre of our concerns. There is hardly a comparable sector that impinges on so many different aspects of our lives. Even in the age of the internet, it is still mobility that makes it possible for us to work, buy and sell, communicate directly, come into contact with others and participate. Lack of exercise is not only an obstacle as far as all this is concerned but also leads to health problems. The provision and development of mobility-promoting strategies must thus be at the focus of any all-embracing policy of integrated urban development. And the challenges we need to face here are not inconsiderable. Local authorities need an additional €4 – 5 million if they are to keep our streets in a reasonable state of repair and the result is that road potholes have become a common feature in our towns and cities. We are thus of the opinion that those who tend to cause the damage should pay for it and, as far as we are concerned, a toll on heavy grade vehicles would be a perfectly reasonable solution.
At the same time, demographic profiles in our towns and cities are changing. There will soon be far fewer of us and our average age will be much higher. Mobility strategies thus need to take into account the needs of families and the elderly. The removal of barriers and the provision of greater outdoor safety for the elderly and handicapped are important but unfortunately also expensive aims. The places at which we encounter others and our urban experience spaces need to be appropriately adapted. We must ensure that sport and exercise facilities are provided for all generations and that restorative and health-promoting physical activities are given priority. In our future towns and cities, ‘cross-generational exercise parks’ will be as conventional a feature as children’s playgrounds are today, providing exercise facilities appropriate for its users, like a football field. This is something that we need to achieve in spite of the ever-tighter budgets within which authorities are being forced to operate. Cost-efficiency will continue to be a buzzword of the future. But we also need to explore and develop the potential for cost-effective partnerships between, for example, municipal administration and health insurers. However, there are also things that do not cost pots of money. It would be sufficient to organise public jogging, Nordic walking, cycling and hiking sessions and invite people to participate.
Moreover, mobility will in future increasingly be viewed in the light of the maintenance of quality of life and the requirements of sustainability. It is the public transport system that is and will remain the essential provider of mobility in our municipalities. But there will be further changes with regard to the mobility needs of individuals, making the integration and coordination of the various mobility media increasingly important. It is already the case that more and more people living in urban environments are using a bicycle to get around. For these, we need to create cycle paths, cycle parks and points at which they can change to other transport forms. In addition to muscle power, the electric motor will make a significant contribution towards our mobility in future, probably initially in the form of electric bikes and segways and later in the form of electric vehicles, which will provide for pollution-free local mobility. People must be encouraged to accept this new form of transport and buy electric cars. City authorities can promote this development by providing parking spaces that are reserved for this kind of vehicle and creating the corresponding road and loading infrastructure. There will be a fundamental revolution in the look and feel of our towns and cities and we plan to work towards and promote these transformations within our administrations.
And Tai Chi in our parks? Well, why not? Many claim that Asia has copied much from the West. We should perhaps reverse this trend and learn from them their talents for serenity and composure!”

Prof. Peter Wippermann, Trend Büro, Beratungsunternehmen für gesellschaftlichen Wandel B.G.W. GmbH:
“Those who exercise benefit from it. Life is that simple and everyone is aware of this truism. We use our two-tonne, four wheel drives to ferry our children to nursery school and use high-speed lifts to get to our office just that little bit quicker. Then we go home and park ourselves for hours in front of the TV or computer screen. The speed of a few milliseconds in which it is now possible to transmit data determines the rate at which we now live. Anyone who considers themselves to be at the cutting-edge will now access the internet on the move to make sure they are not excluded from the latest social developments. Personal media devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, have become a recognised status symbol. Progress is now measured in terms of improvements in communication rather than mobility.
But our ingenuity knows no bounds. Our need for exercise has found expression in the virtual world of communication technology. What started life as early morning gymnastics programmes on the radio and went on to become fitness videos featuring Jane Fonda has now been reborn on the computer screen. TV-linked consoles with their control boxes have integrated movement sensors and can replicate our movements in on-screen characters.
Augmented reality, which aims to combine the real world with the virtual world, will determine the mobility of people within the urban landscape of the future. We will no longer need a computer for this. We ourselves will become, as it were, a cursor moving within the data network. The jogging community has already shown us the way. They have popularised the idea of incorporating a computer chip in a normal trainer that records the movements of the wearer.
Nike and Apple have developed mass-market systems that convert movement into digital data. Virtual urban-located races between individual runners have become part of our everyday life and everyone is free to create their own community. The destructuring of such competitions has become as commonplace as the use of marathon runs as tools for the marketing of a particular town or city. The response to all this sophistication and virtualisation can only be a return to the ‘authentic’ in the form of parkour or freerunning. This treats the urban landscape as a kind of obstacle course in which puddles, litter bins, dustbins, walls, steps and fences form the hurdles. The objective is to get from A to B by the most direct and quickest route and any obstacles must be crossed and not avoided. This form of urban extreme sport requires acrobatic and stuntman-like skills. Adidas has already brought out a range of products designed for the practitioners of this alternative sporting activity.
But the drift towards the digital society is a development that can no longer be stopped. Under the slogan ‘Welcome to a healthier you’, a whole new generation of fitness gadgets is being targeted at the technophile urban citizen. The UP Band is a bracelet to be worn on the wrist that contains a movement sensor and is linked to an iPhone app. The bracelet starts to vibrate if the wearer fails to move for a longer period.
Even our thinking about movement has become programmatic. We count the number of steps we take, register the distances we move and the time it takes us to do so and identify ourselves with the forms of sport or exercise that we choose to practice. Movement sensors tell us the relative periods of time we have spent being active and inactive. Well-engineered technology with an attractive design that matches nicely the bike sitting somewhere in the garage.”

Ulrich Scheffler, Managing Director, Lappset Spiel-, Park-, Freizeitsysteme GmbH:
“The transformation of our society is occurring ever more rapidly and the demographic changes in our towns and cities are becoming increasingly apparent. Our focus on the individual and our new communication options have meant that we take more physical exercise; usually on our own or in small groups according to our mindset. But all age groups enthusiastically participate in mass events, such as marathon runs. We are progressively accepting that the maintenance of our long term health and wellbeing is our own responsibility. People are starting to demand a wider range of ways and means through which they can engage in physical activity. Local authorities must ensure they can react flexibly to changing trends and offer more areas of extensive open space (along the lines of the Tempelhofer Feld project) which temporary, informal groups can use free of charge, are suitable for the new forms of exercise and sport that are developing and which, as public space, can be used by all for private leisure activities. Standardised guidelines and an increased range of options with regard to exercise will encourage more people to participate as, indeed, will more widespread communication of the underlying concept to the general public. There are already manufacturers, some of whom already have extensive expertise, whose skills in this regard could be used to a greater extent by local authorities. These together with their own planners working in consultation with relevant architects could develop long-term, flexible and more viable overall concepts in the form of a ‘mobility masterplan’ that would provide larger municipal open spaces to meet the needs of families, juveniles, sport and the elderly. The complexity and potential of certain strategies, such as that of providing facilities in which the elderly can exercise to maintain their motor skills, may only be apparent at the higher local authority and political levels. Mayors, municipal administrations, green space planning directors and state governments can provide important input and should be encouraged to participate at their own level in the drafting of mobility masterplans.”

Achim Höse, Project Manager Plastic Coatings at BSW GmbH:
“The attitude of the Germans towards sport and exercise has been transformed and this attitude will continue to evolve in future. We are witnessing and will continue to witness a growth in forms of sporting activity that, unlike the more mainstream sports, are non-competitive and not team-based, have fluid rules and are individual-orientated. Up to two thirds of the population in Germany who indulge in some form of sport now take their exercise in public spaces rather than in specially designed sports facilities. Local authorities should take note of this and design their public spaces so that they provide a suitable infrastructure for these leisure activities. There is a wide range of different options that are affordable even in this climate of lean municipal budgets. A strategy aimed at merging sport and play and making appropriate facilities available to broad sections of the public can be integrated in urban planning concepts in many ways. The following approaches can be employed:
• Existing sports grounds can also be adapted to accommodate other physical activities, sports and events in addition to football and light athletics, such as boules, boccia, miniature golf, outdoor fitness training, coordination exercises, small playing field sports, new forms of sport, climbing walls, gastronomic attractions, stage shows and much more in this vein
• More activity amenities can be provided in existing outdoor leisure facilities: games fields and water playgrounds in parks, fitness training equipment in public spaces, trampolines and climbing frames for children at scenic viewpoints etc.
• Activity equipment and games areas for adults can be provided in children’s playgrounds
• Old industrial sites can be converted into sports and games facilities and communal meeting places
• Fitness and exercise equipment designed for all age groups can be provided in public areas
• Indoor playgrounds can be constructed in multifunctional sports halls
• Spaces dedicated to the new forms of sporting activity can be provided for use free of charge
• Roads and pavements can be designed so that they are more attractive for walkers, joggers, cyclists and inline skaters
• Private investors can be encouraged to invest in new sports and games facilities, such as indoor playgrounds and climbing halls.
Although many of our municipalities have indeed implemented many of the above ideas, only very few have adopted a policy that sets out to systematically provide exercise and sport options in public areas. The traditional complex of sports ground, sports hall, swimming pool and playground still all too frequently predominates, while there is also a tendency to make sports grounds that were once freely accessible to all only available to schools and sports associations. But thanks to our democratic structures, the public’s desire to take more exercise will sooner or later begin to influence our urban planning concepts. The suppliers of sports and playground equipment and the local authorities who recognise these portents for what they are can only benefit from them.”

Prof. Dr. med. Aloys Berg, Chairman of the “Platform Diet and Physical Activity”
“What forms will exercise take in the urban environment in coming years? Failure to exploit potential physical activity options and long hours sitting in front of the TV and computer screen have meant that our children are increasingly immobile, so that the problem of obesity and associated disorders is growing. Not only development of playgrounds and sports facilities and the promotion of more exercise at school and through clubs, but also more physical exercise during our daily routine would be good for our health. Children need open spaces that they can organise and appropriate to themselves without the intervention of supervising adults. This should encourage those children who are less responsive to the attractions of organised sports to get out and take exercise.
However, in order to achieve this, the actions and decisions of everyone who has some form of responsibility for the physical wellbeing of our children must be guided by the needs of the worlds of experience and physical movement from a child’s point of view – from parents and educators through local politicians, urban green space and transportation planners to health administrators.
Our 'Bewegungs(t)räume' workshop is designed to help those directly affected and those responsible find access locally to new spaces that can be used for physical activity.
But the potential for physical exercise at home should also be used to the full. Nursery school and school age children are naturally inclined to horse around at home. Why not provide them here with games that promote exercise, mattresses on which they can romp to their heart’s content, gymnastic bars or even just remove furniture to give them more room? This would encourage them to get physically active in their own four walls as well as outdoors.
The question of future urban exercise is thus just as much as a question of how far we are willing to promote exercise in our everyday world – both indoors and outdoors!”

Steffen Strasser, playparc Allwetter-Freizeitanlagenbau GmbH:
“We have been involved in projects to promote more physical activity in urban green spaces for more than ten years. It is not just the many studies that have demonstrated an incontrovertibly positive effect of exercise on fitness and physical and psychological health that have impelled us to put our weight behind achieving this objective. Similarly important from our point of view is what physical activity can achieve in other respects. There are the psycho-social factors, such as social integration, a sense of community, greater self-awareness and autonomy, which physical exercise can enhance for the individual or group and these elements determine to a large extent our conceptualisation and planning.
It will become increasingly the responsibility of local authorities and sports associations to provide space in which our active but ever more elderly population can take physical exercise. The aim is to integrate physical activity naturally into our daily routine so that it becomes more accessible for people. Physical activity provides individuals with a platform through which they can readily and informally interact with each other. It can build bridges between generations – this was the essential purpose behind the construction of public spaces, such as municipal park facilities. These were and are meeting places that everyone could and can use and easily reach...and we should ensure that this is exactly what they remain.”

Jeanette Fich Jespersen, International Manager Kompan Play Institute:
“In recent years, our desire to create cities that are more child-friendly and our “Liveable Cities” program have given rise to considerable discussion on how to promote more physical activity in the urban setting. It is apparent we need to provide increased opportunities for people to exercise as Europe’s population is becoming progressively immobile and thus less fit. And at present there are also major trends towards a growth of urbanisation and individualisation. As social interaction with others is a basic human need, two developments are accompanying this greater urbanisation: 1) Individuals are now more frequently communicating through digital social media (such as Facebook) even when they are not alone. Adults may sit in meetings, but still feel free to use their mobile phones to contact others. Until recently, people tended to communicate digitally from their homes or offices but many parks now have WiFi access points so that you can stay in touch even outdoors.
2) Because of or perhaps as a reaction to the growing problem of obesity, city dwellers are increasingly engaging in social interaction with their fellows, frequently in so-called ‘action groups’. Never before in Europe have there been so many small and informal skating clubs, jogging societies and the like. What is striking is that the majority of the new sporting activities are individual-orientated. There is no need for you to practice together with others, as in the case of team sports like soccer, if you are going to go skating, jogging or parkour freerunning. And this is something that municipal administrators looking to determine what the most popular forms of exercise will be in future need to take on board. But this doesn’t mean that we should start building skateboard parks and parkour courses wherever we can: it is more important to ensure that as many different exercise facilities as possible are made available to those looking to use them.
‘The product of the future will be invisible’: devices that allow us to quantify and then register our own personal physical performance are now more popular than ever. Digital games that have a high score target are also becoming increasingly all the rage. Digital systems are already being used in children’s playgrounds and the effects these have had on the extent, duration and intensity with which children use equipment have been remarkable. This is something that we at Kompan have witnessed and documented everywhere that Kompan Icon digital play products have been installed. However, it is also essential to respect the natural play patterns of children and avoid making digital play products merely an extension of computer screens. Only in this way is it possible to preserve the sense of community within the group. There can be no doubt that a sense of community that transcends generation, gender and nationality will be an essential requirement within the city of the future.”

Dr. Dieter Breithecker, Federal Working Group for Posture and Mobilization Support:
“More enticements to make people take spontaneous physical exercise are needed in our urban environments. We have become increasingly mobile thanks to our cars, planes and trains, but this always requires us to be seated. We now consider this to be normal. Yet, in terms of our evolution, this is a lifestyle that is completely alien to us. Our inherited physiology is by no means adapted to this secondary immobility. The consequence is a serious conflict between our constitution and the requirements of the situations in which we live and the result is that our inherited metabolic functions are no longer in equilibrium. In addition to dyslipidaemia and its effects another disorder, depression, is taking on epidemic proportions. The increasing trend in recent years for people to move into towns and cities is exacerbating the effects of this lack of primary physical exercise; Homo sapiens is gradually evolving into Homo sedens with all the accompanying complex baggage of psycho-social side effects.
Opportunities for spontaneous exercise come in the form of sporting and fitness-enhancing activities. Commercial and non-commercial health courses, sports and fitness programmes are enjoying massive popularity because spatial and vocational restrictions are preventing us taking the essential exercise we need. However, these are only appropriate for those who are already sport-orientated and wish to do more for their fitness. To provide the majority of people with the chance to lead a more active life that is beneficial to their health, urban planning strategies must have the objective of promoting as much primary physical movement as possible. This would be good for the metabolism and provide significant benefits in health terms. The more daily exercise we take, the more we can lower the risk of cardiac infarction, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and depression. The results of an Australian study involving 4700 volunteers show that those subjects who never took part in any form of sport had metabolic values and waist measurements that were comparable with those who were regularly involved in a sporting activity, assuming that the former took sufficient and regular exercise on an everyday basis. Habitual spontaneous physical activity is the essential factor that will keep bodyweight and calorie intake in harmony and thus generally maintain our health and quality of life. This lifestyle is not something that is consciously selected but is determined naturally by the requirements of the environment in which we live. We thus need an urban infrastructure that provides more dedicated spaces in which people are encouraged to be mobile on skates and bikes. Human beings also need certain sensory stimuli and thus require more space for recreation and physical activity in natural surroundings to compensate for the grey concrete and asphalt and optical and acoustic bombardment they encounter on a daily basis. Secreted among these should be exciting, multigenerational exercise options involving a certain amount of risk and hazard designed to promote balance, muscle and movement skills. These should take the form of exercise landscapes instead of monotonous, non-taxing, one-sided exercise apparatus. The opportunity to exercise as the mood takes one using freely designed options for climbing, balancing, hanging, jumping and the many opportunities for ball play are not only good for the senses but for the body as a whole. Motivation, incentive, reward and socialization promote a willingness to take on the new and take more exercise. The more complex and diversified the options for imaginative, self-paced and, most importantly, challenging exercise in the immediate surroundings are, the more people of all generations will feel free to test themselves using these, the better the complex and interdependent, physical, mental and psychological systems will develop in growing children and the better these will be maintained as they themselves become elderly.
A barrier-free urban landscape need not necessarily be represented by completely free access to everything: the concept of ‘barrier-free’ has become all too much of a shibboleth for us. But we only need to remove barriers where the special requirements of those with disabilities need to be taken into account. We do not need to create a completely barrier-free environment for non-handicapped individuals who, faced with a natural barrier, will be required to make a temporary effort to surmount this ‘hurdle’. We should not put in place technical solutions, for example, that make it easy for people to avoid this form of exertion. On the contrary; we need to retain natural and ‘artificial’ barriers, to confront individuals of all generations with problems they can overcome; after all, as Karl Popper said: ‘All of life is problem-solving.’ Our everyday life and nature itself continually throw up natural barriers that in some instances require considerable effort to get through. There is no doubt this is as it should be. Our complex physical and psychological makeup needs constant challenges on which we can focus and work systematically at defeating. The use of lifts in buildings should be reserved for use by those with disabilities or the transport of heavy objects. Stairs are a natural system that encourages us to exercise and climbing them is an excellent way of working out, of training our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, leg and gluteal muscles. Most escalator systems are thus an unnecessary technical sophistication that lead us into the ‘inertia trap’.”

Rolf Keller, Member of the Executive Board, NürnbergMesse GmbH:
“Exercise is indispensable for me. In my leisure time, I travel to the mountains to go hiking. On weekdays, I try to keep fit in the city by going wherever I can on foot or using my bike to go shopping. If I have to travel for business purposes, I usually take my trainers with me and jog for a while in the evening to clear my head after a busy day. As a city dweller, I know the value of attractively designed green spaces, parks and an extensive network of cycle paths, and how these encourage one to take exercise. There are some really very attractive ‘green lungs’ in Nuremberg, such as the Wöhrder Wiese, the municipal park, the Pegnitzauen and the Luitpoldhain in Dutzendteich park, where Nuremberg’s citizens will congregate after work and at weekends. You will find all age groups represented here. Whether they have come to skate, cycle, jog, play basketball or football – everyone is able to find a way to exercise. Also particularly popular are the multigenerational playgrounds with their fitness training equipment.”

Patrick Dubert, Section Manager, S.O.R. Schulz e. K.:
“Irrespective of what we may think of the idea of having to wait until the age of 67 to qualify for our state retirement pension, we all want to stay fit and healthy into our old age. But the way we move and exercise at various times is determined by the stage of life in which we are currently situated. There is a difference between a child discovering the world, a teenager training to be an athlete or taking risks by practising the more hazardous forms of new sports and someone who is merely trying to keep themselves fit, whatever their age. Outdoor fitness equipment promotes contact between people in a society that is increasingly characterised by digital communication and anonymity. Exercise is unique; there is no other activity that has the same potential for bringing individuals together. And these are individuals from all age groups, from all social and cultural backgrounds. It is essential that we create environments in which ‘young’ and ‘old’ and the various interest groups can encounter each other. These environments should not have the characteristics of event-orientated venues and, at the same time, marginalised urban areas must not be overlooked. As is so often the case, we need to find the correct balance between activity and tranquillity to ensure a long term positive effect on the living environment. As a manufacturer, we have set new standards in the production of outdoor fitness equipment made of stainless steel. Designed for use by young and old, you will be able to view our products at GaLaBau 2012.”

Renate Zeumer, Playfit GmbH:
“Our life expectancy increases with each year; it is predicted that by 2030, one in three Germans will be over the age of 60 years. Individuals tend to take less and less exercise as they grow older after their 18th birthday. It should be an objective of local authorities to provide attractive and free exercise facilities for everyone, and particularly the elderly. With local strategies for the elderly in view, exercise spaces that are publically accessible and promote intergenerational contact will benefit the health and vitality of the elderly and thus increase the time that these are able to live independently within their own four walls (retention of urban residential facilities). In our age of fully-booked schedules, it is necessary to ensure that flexible leisure activities are available that can be enjoyed without time-pressure and the necessity of having to change clothes. Public exercise training trails are the coming vogue as the significantly increasing numbers of users in recent years show. Exercise training trails keep their users fit and healthy, are free and can be used at any time without obligation. Another aspect that should not be ignored is that they also promote sociability in an age in which the numbers of persons living alone is growing.
Over the medium term, the political aspiration should be to create legal guidelines for the construction of exercise trails, in analogy with Art. 8 of the German model building ordinance for children’s playgrounds.
The spectrum of equipment for such exercise trails is wide, ranging from devices designed to promote strength and the circulation, that train movement, coordination and equilibrium skills, that help users relax through to those that stimulate their senses. Here, I think that we are only at the beginning of what is likely to be a major trend. The fact that standards for fitness equipment to be installed in public areas are currently in the process of being prepared indicates that the exercise training trail is here to stay.”

Claudia Gust,SIK-Holzgestaltungs GmbH:
“Physical exercise instead of brain training: the sport educationalist Renate Zimmer considers this concept in her book ‘Bewegung macht schlau’ [Wise through exercise]: ‘Exercise is the best form of start-up investment if we want to learn – and we should start with this at the earliest possible opportunity. Exercise promotes the formation of neural networks in the brain, facilitating the uptake and processing of new information.’ Hence, if we want to learn, we need to exercise – throughout our lives. Things can be put on the right track while we are still children, when we can discover the pleasure and the need to uphold and maintain the vigour of our body. The ‘mobile’ lifestyle that we now enjoy thanks to technological progress forces us from the very beginning to sit still. Sit still in the car, on the bus or train, in the classroom or at our desk. But if we want there to be room for current and future knowledge in the heads of our children, we need to provide them with more opportunities to take exercise in the everyday world. Kindergartens and schools that are exercise-orientated are a first step in the right direction. But the routes that we follow on a daily basis could be enriched by simple to complex play and leisure equipment that encourage us to take exercise.”


Acknowledgements
Photos: BSW, Kompan, Lappset, SOR, SIK-Holzgestaltung, Playfit, NuernbergMesse
 

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