U of A opens free year-round outdoor gym

Five exercise stations will be open year-round to encourage physical activity for the campus community and the public.


The University of Alberta opened a year-round outdoor gym today in the northeast corner of its north campus to encourage people to stay active outdoors, even during the winter months. (Photo: Michael Brown)

In an effort to expand physical fitness options to the university community, the University of Alberta's north campus is now home to a year-round outdoor gym.

Located on the northeast corner of campus along Saskatchewan Drive, immediately east of the Humanities Building, the outdoor gym features five exercise stations that are each designed to accommodate multiple exercises and are accessible to the general public for free at all hours of the day.

"I think one of the issues with our campus is we tend to isolate ourselves and stay indoors, especially during the winter," said Avneet Hayer, program co-ordinator with Campus and Community Recreation. "With the outdoor gym, we're trying to encourage people to be active outside."

Two years in the making, the project began at a time when the National College Health Assessment came out showing that only 22.1 per cent of U of A students were meeting the Canadian physical activity guidelines of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.

"As well, our Healthy University Strategic Plan was receiving community feedback indicating that exercise and healthy spaces were two priorities the campus community wished to see addressed on campus," said Hayer.

She explained the gym was the brainchild of a group of community service-learning students who proposed the idea of developing a fitness park-similar to ones popping up around Edmonton and comparable to one at the University of Calgary-as a way of addressing issues related to wellness on campus.

From there a partnership between the Healthy Campus Unit, Campus and Community Recreation and Facilities and Operations was struck. The group received funding for the $25,000 project from the Campus Rec Enhancement Fund, created to improve recreation experiences on campus.

"We chose the opposite side of campus from the main gym to try to equalize access a little bit and as a way to provide connection to the community and justification for getting into the trail system," said Hayer.

The five machines-a lat pulldown machine, plyometric boxes for step-ups and jump training, a log hop station, a sit-up/back extension station and a push-up/row station-come with QR codes that lead to demonstration videos on how to use the equipment properly.

"We chose equipment that is the most accessible and can be used in a variety of different ways," said Hayer. "We tried to stay away from things like chest presses because you are only really able to use that in one particular way."

Hayer said Campus and Community Recreation will eventually offer formal programming in the outdoor gym. And if all goes well, she said the university has the option of expanding the gym and possibly creating a trail system of exercise.

"The City of Edmonton started this whole Winter Cities movement to try to encourage social connection and physical activity throughout the winter months. With this project, we just wanted to be part of that momentum and provide access to a free and alternative fitness option."