With today’s growing emphasis on health and wellness, the
exercise or fitness area has become an important part of the home,
providing an opportunity to flex our design muscles. It may be an
integral or adjacent space to the master suite, or it may be
located in a more public space. It may be intended strictly for the
residents of the master suite or for use by the entire family.
Wherever it is, it frequently relates to a water space, from
simple bath and shower to master bath or family spa. Following are
suggestions for concepts and products that make up the exercise
As with any project, you should
first assess the clients’ needs. What are the clients’ fitness and
exercise priorities? Do they spend 20 minutes on each exercise
machine every day, or do they just need a space for a treadmill
when rainy days disrupt their outdoor walking routine? Is new
exercise equipment a priority, or will existing equipment be used?
Should fold-up equipment be used that can be stored in a corner or
Discussing the space available and the clients’ exercise program
is critical in determining if the space is adequate. Exercise
equipment can consume a lot of space. The space may also need to be
more flexible to meet a variety of needs and exercise programs, and
to allow for more than one person at a station.
Some activities, such as aerobics, calisthenics, stretching and
yoga, require nothing more than a mat and enough space to safely
perform the exercise. Other activities can be supplemented with
low-tech accessories, such as stability balls used during
stretching. Sizes vary and depend on the size of the user, with
common sizes being 45 cm, 55 cm and 65cm. Sliders can be used for
side-to-side or lateral exercises; step benches for step-aerobics
and a punching or heavy bag can be used for kickboxing, boxing
aerobics or karate. Closets should be planned for mats and
accessories if they need to be put away after each use or if the
area is to be used for a separate function.
Aerobic exercise machines need to be flexible if multiple users
of different heights, weights and fitness goals will use them. For
multiple users, the equipment and finishes also need to be durable
to accommodate usage throughout the day. Common exercise machines
include treadmills, bikes, rowing machines, stair climbers,
elliptical, ski machines and a multi-station gym.
Equipment for strength training includes free-weight sets including
weights, bars, clips and storage, dumbbells and storage rack,
elastic tubes or bands for resistance training, benches including
slant boards for weight lifting or sit-ups and inversion tables for
stretching and yoga, and a Pilates reformer.
Other components in the exercise room might include a locker
area for storage of clothes, shoes, towels or water bottles; a
bench; a clothes hamper for used clothes; and a storage area
located near the machines for reading material. Stereo systems to
provide music for aerobics or dancing and televisions with VCRs or
DVD players for instructional videos or entertainment are popular.
A large clock that counts seconds and is easy to read is also
helpful, as are mirrors on multiple walls to ensure proper form. In
some cases, space for a juice bar or beverage center is also
You can use stature and body
breadth dimensions to figure minimum floor space for exercises such
as sit-ups and push ups. An excellent source of standard dimensions
is Human Dimensions and Interior Space: A Source Book of Design
Reference Standards by Zelnik and Panero. The client’s side arm
reach, forward thumb tip reach, vertical grip reach and
buttocks-leg length should also be considered when planning for
stretching or calisthenics. Although you can measure your client,
when possible, use standard human body measurements from the
largest percentile to make a more flexible space.
If more than one person is using the space, you should plan for
clearance between people. (HDIS) recommends 3″ to 6″ between two
persons’ arms extended to the side.
To develop the space plan and to determine if the space is
adequate, measure the existing equipment or obtain manufacturer’s
specs on new equipment, just as you would for fixtures in a
bathroom. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has determined
guidelines that can quickly help in determining the space needed
for common exercise equipment.
- Treadmills: 30 sq. ft.
- Free weights: 20-50 sq. ft.
- Bikes, recumbent and upright: 10 sq. ft.
- Rowing Machines: 20 sq. ft.
- Stair Climbers: 10 to 20 sq. ft.
- Ski Machines: 25 sq. ft.
- Single-station gym: 35 sq. ft.
- Multi-station gym: 50 to 200 sq. ft.
In addition to the dimension of the equipment you must also
provide a clear path of travel, with a minimum of 30″ clearance to
each piece of equipment. Also consider how much space is needed for
the exercising human body.
In no other space in the home is ceiling height as critical as
it is in the exercise area. This is especially true when an
exercise program includes vertical jumping such as jumping jacks,
jump roping or plyometrics, which may include jumping up and down
on boxes or platforms. For example, dancing that includes lifts of
another person requires a recommended ceiling height of 12′.
Use indirect lighting to avoid glare. Fluorescent lamps are also
a good choice, as they don’t put off as much heat as halogen or
xenon lamps. Avoid ceiling mounted or hanging light fixtures or
pendants that could be accidentally damaged during exercise. Plan
for proper ventilation that will remove moisture and odor released
into the air by exercising bodies and discarded exercise
In addition to exercise mats, the entire floor should be
cushioned with a dense floor mat to protect the floor and to help
prevent sound transmission. Likewise, treatment to and the
construction of the walls should limit transmission of sound to