Understanding outdoor gyms in public open spaces: A systematic review and integrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative evidence

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Background: An outdoor gym (OG) is environmental infrastructure built in a public open space to promote structured physical activity. The provision of OGs is increasingly seen as an important strategy to realize public health agendas promoting habitual physical activity. A systematic review was conducted to synthesize characteristics of OG and OG users’ experiences and perceptions in different cultural contexts; (2) Methods: Online searches of multidisciplinary databases were conducted in health, sport and recreation, and urban planning disciplines. Characteristics of OGs were synthesized by integrating evidence from quantitative, qualitative, and mix-methods studies. The experiences and perceptions of OG users from both qualitative data and survey responses were synthesized through framework analysis; (3) Results: Nine studies met the inclusion criteria (three quantitative studies, four mixed-methods studies, and two pure qualitative studies). None were excluded on the basis of quality. OGs mainly serve adult and older adult population groups. Their size, design, and instructional support vary across studies. The inclusion of functional types of equipment did not have a unified standard. Regarding experiences and perceptions of OGs, five major themes emerged: “health”, “social connectedness”, “affordable”, “support”, and “design and promotion”; (4) Conclusions: The OG characteristics synthesis guides the direction in further studies regarding exploration of design parameters. The qualitative and quantitative synthesis revealed that health was a central theme of users’ experiences. OGs are also spaces where community-dwellers can find social connectedness while participating in structured physical activity at no cost. Findings from this review create knowledge support for OG as environmental infrastructure for further research and facilitate the understanding of users’ experiences and perceptions of OGs in different cultural contexts.




Lee, J. L. C., Lo, T. L. T., & Ho, R. T. H. (2018, April 1). Understanding outdoor gyms in public open spaces: A systematic review and integrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15040590

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