How Design Influences The #1 New Year's Resolution
The #1 New Year’s Resolution year after year is ‘lose weight’. Often, this is coupled with the desire to re-commit to a regular gym routine. We recently listened to NPR’s Planet Money podcast “Why We Sign Up For Gym Memberships But Never Go To The Gym“. We learned how design influences gym membership and how your New Year’s Resolution may be harder to keep than you think.
Gyms of Yesteryear
Before we can understand how current design trends are influencing our gym practices, let’s review what the typical gym used to look like. In the late 70s and early 80s, gyms were places for body builders in sweatpants. The layout focused the basic necessities of the time: free weights and intimidating equipment. There was little consideration for the architectural and interior design. Locker rooms were simple and there were little to no amenities. The gym was bare bones.
Photo Credit: Raw-Iron.com
The Real Cost of a Gym Membership
As Planet Money reported, the real cost of gyms are pretty incredible. To keep the costs of a monthly membership reasonable, gyms require a high volume of members that do not actually use the gym. It’s similar to the concept of insurance-everyone pays a monthly premium to help cover the costs of those who actually draw on their insurance. It makes sense, but can be a challenge to continue to entice the members to stay members year after year.
When it comes to attracting the high volume of members, architecture plays a big role in today’s gyms. Modern gyms are designed to be welcoming places that promote health and community. The design goes beyond the functional need to house equipment and instead considers the user experience. Here are a few design gestures to encourage everyone, not just gym regulars, to feel welcome and encouraged to become members:
- The entry has a welcome desk and lounge furniture. Offering a space for people to interact and share in community sets brick and mortar gyms apart from convenient at-home workout videos. Even the small YMCA of Woodfin, NC dedicates square footage to comfortable chairs.
- The layout, or space plan, of the modern gym locates the intimidating equipment and free weights away from the entry and puts cardio equipment near the front. Equipment that is simple to use is seen first.
- To continue the idea of comfort, TVs above the cardio equipment provide that sense of comfort, as if we are in our own living room. On top of that; many find it a pleasant distraction to help pass the time on the treadmill.
- Beyond the basic needs of the gym, the modern gym has many amenities. Childcare and improved locker rooms are to be expected. Some amenities that may be unexpected include: juice/smoothy stations, clothing and gear retail, and hair salons. (Disclaimer: the Woodfin Y does not have these amenities.)
There’s always an outlier…
In a time when many gyms are going big on experience and offerings, another type of gym has been popularized in the last decade: CrossFit. This gym experience is more easily compared to the bare bones gym of the 70s and early 80s. Usually in old warehouses or garages, the CrossFit business model does not embrace the more members to lower the cost for all. The cost of membership is nearly double if you want to workout more than 1 time per week.
Resolve to be a Regular
We see every day how design and architecture can influence our experiences and impact our lives. The building typology of the gym is no different. If you’re like most Americans, you are beginning 2015 with resolve to be healthier and more active. It’s a great plan! Consider yourself enlightened to the tactics gyms use to entice membership but not always 100% member participation. Maybe this year you (and us too!) will stick to the gym habit and have those other members subsidize THE monthly membership dues!