Lessons Learned in Exercise Studio Design

Group exercise studios are crucial to member experience, but many studios are poorly designed. Prior to construction or renovation, club owners should keep the 10 general principles of planning and design in mind:

  1. Size & shape
  • User capacity can be figured at 50 square feet of open floor per occupant
  • Room shape should be conceived with instructor location and student sight-lines in mind
  • Combinations of straight, curved or angular walls can create attractive spacesImage-1
  1. Entry & exit
  • Doors should always swing out and be located at the back of the studio, so late arrivals do not disrupt the class
  • Studios larger than 1,500 square feet often trigger a code requirement for two exit doors
  • Need generously dimensioned pre-assembly space with water, personal lockers & towel racks, immediately outside the studioImage-2
  1. Flooring & ceiling
  • Flooring choice is driven by programming purpose, durability, maintainability, safety, comfort and style
  • Ceiling designs have great impact on the feeling of a studio
  • Both the appearance and reality of adequate overhead clearance are essential, 10 and 11-foot clearances preferredImage-3
  1. Equipment & storage
  • Providing adequate storage for equipment is key to efficient use of program space
  • Our rule of thumb is 1 square foot of storage for every 25 square feet of floor space
  • Storage areas must be positioned to allow users to easily circulate as they pick up and return itemsImage-4
  1. Privacy & visibility
  • Owners often rule out glass walls for studios due to the perceived need for privacy
  • Difficult to showcase the studio without some glass
  • Creative ways to treat glass for privacy, including decorative glass patterns and window coverings, both allow motion, light and color to be seen without compromising privacyImage-5
  1. Mirrors & views
  • Exterior glass and attractive vistas are always an asset for a group exercise environment
  • An ideal 4-wall studio will have 1 wall for mirrors, 1 wall for exterior glass, 1 wall for interior glass and 1 wall for storage
  • A fully mirrored wall—full width and floor to ceiling—always has greater visual impact than a partially mirrored wallImage-6
  1. Style & theme
  • Studios are prime candidates for esthetic enrichment and creative design themes:
    • colorful floor graphics and large wall banners
    • decorative glass
    • specialized lighting
    • acoustical surfacingImage-7
  1. Lighting
  • Indirect lighting arrangements are always best for a room where participants are likely to spend time on their backs looking up at the ceiling
  • On/Off and dimming controls should be wireless or located convenient to the instructorImage-8
  1. Acoustics
  • Interior resonance is always an issue in studios. Bear in mind that hard surfaces everywhere will create an echo chamber that is not desirable for group activities
  • The ceiling treatment is most effective in creating acoustic comfort in a roomImage-9
  1. Heating and cooling
  • Comfortable space conditions for group activities are a must!
  • Properly engineered solutions must account for:
    • Outside air temperature
    • Air movement
    • Intensity of activity
    • Type of lighting
    • Rate of air change
    • Humidity
    • Occupant load
    • Cooling & heating capacity
    • Wall/roof construction
    • Controls & filteringImage-10