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Where Outside to Exercise
The following characteristics can affect the comfort and fitness benefit derived from exercising outdoors.
The surface should be as level as possible (no slope, no uneven areas). It should have a good grip and depending on the type of activity it is used for, should probably have some resilience to reduce impact.
Any outdoor site should have very good drainage, to prevent any water build up (both on the surface and beneath the surface) causing it to become boggy or soft).
There should be protection as much as possible, from the elements (e.g. windbreaks, shade, shelter from rain).
The site should ideally offer minimal distractions (e.g. noise, visual) to class participants, and to other people nearby. It should away from the general public to decrease distractions and interference with others. For example holding an aerobics class in the park on a Wednesday afternoon would be fine, but not if it interferes with the local Senior Citizens BBQ.
Light shade from a canopy of trees can be used to provide protection from glare of the sun, but heavy shade on a dull day may make it difficult for some people to follow an instructors movements. Suitable lighting will be needed if the area is used for night classes.
There should be a suitable place for participants to place their bags, towels etc, where they are secure, and readily accessed. Toilet facilities are also valuable.
Some of the options for outdoor surfaces, include: Grass/lawn, Hard surfaces (eg. concrete/asphalt/pavers/etc), Wooden decks and Artificial turf (eg Astro-turf).
When deciding if an outdoor surface is suitable to use, consider the following:
* Will participants need to sit or lay down to carry out any exercises.
* What is the likely impact on feet and legs.
* Does the surface provide good grip, too much grip for certain exercises, is it too slippery for some exercises, etc. Does the grip of the surface change if the surface is wet?
* What are the temperature attributes of the surface (e.g. concrete is cold in winter, asphalt is hot in summer, timber seems to be neutral and generally acceptable, some artificial surfacings get very hot and may require watering to cool them down).
* The likely sun reflection off the surface (concrete has a high reflective factor
and can cause eye strain).
* The possibility of injury if participants fall, or slip over (e.g. breaks, strains, skin abrasions).
Surfaces Inside or Out
A good surface both indoors or outside should exhibit:
* A good ratio of rebound resilience. Person/surface resilience is a measure of the energy returned after an impact so that a low resilience surface will absorb more of the energy in an impact. Too low a level may be tiring for an aerobic work out, whereas too high will be like exercising on a trampoline.
* Stiffness - This is important if a person falls to the ground/floor. The softer the surface, the less chance of an injury. A very soft surface will make the aerobic activity harder to perform (more calories will be burnt), but may not offer good foot support. A very hard surface may possibly cause injury.
* Friction: Person/surface
A good level of friction is important to ensure traction through various exercises and to prevent accidental slipping. Too high a level will restrict foot movement.
All surfaces, whether indoors or out, will over time exhibit wear and tear. This may lead to increased possibility of injury as the surface deteriorates. Regular inspection of the surfaces being used is necessary to detect early signs of any problems, and then repairs/maintenance carried out to fix the problem.
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