Posted on October 11, 2018 by Gordon Smith

Students have more options than ever before when it comes to finding a place to live. As a result, student accommodation gyms have become a must-have feature of new builds as well as a key consideration in refurbishments. 

According to a report from Cushman & Wakefield, the number of purpose-built student accommodation spaces has increased to 602,000 during 2017/18, with a staggering 30,000 new bed spaces delivered during the 2017 academic year alone.

It’s clear there is a huge demand for this type accommodation. But it also means students can pick and choose the best space that meets their requirements. Creating accommodation that balances privacy with socialising and fitness is crucial for developers to keep a competitive edge.

So it’s important to provide some kind of workout area, whether by adding to your existing block or within new plans.

If this is something you’re intending to do, here’s what you need to know.

No sign of market slow down

More students than ever are studying away from home. In the UK around 1.04 million people are moving away to go to university. The amount of non-UK students is also rapidly increasing. Of the 1.7 million full-time students in the UK, 23% are from overseas.

Moving away from home can be an exciting but scary experience for young students, especially if they’re moving to a new country. So it’s imperative accommodation blocks create an environment that encourages socialising, fitness and is an inviting, positive space.

It’s also now widely accepted that exercise can help with mental health, and with one in three Freshers presenting symptoms of a mental health disorder. So student accommodation gyms are now some of the most important spaces in the building.

There are also many synergies between exercise and study. A workout boosts concentration and reduces stress, which helps for better overall learning and general wellbeing.

Gym access

The location of a gym can be the difference between a busy, well-used space or an empty room.

Creating a gym at the top of a building without lift access is not ideal. Residents can easily forget it’s there and students with disabilities won’t be able to use it. Similarly a dingy basement with a lack of natural light should be avoided if possible.

In fact, the best space is somewhere close to communal areas. Either on the ground floor or somewhere that is easily accessible. This way, the gym will feel part of the University’s social scene.

Communal areas and workout spaces are there to help people get to know each other and combat loneliness. This is why making the gym a separate entity from the social space may create a more isolated environment.

Some student gym designers have put the gym at the far end of the social area. This way, students have to walk through it to gain access – keeping them firmly at the hub of the action.

Making the most of the space

If your block is in a built-up area and space is at a premium, make sure there is enough space to create a functioning gym that allows more than one person to use equipment at any time.

Gym equipment is getting smaller and more compact. Exercise trends are also changing. Gone are the days of the traditional 30 minute cardio and weights regime. The growth of HIIT and interval training means there is a demand for workout stations. These are multi-use frames or towers with a range of resistance equipment.

Having said that, there will always be a need for ‘traditional’ cardio equipment such as ellipticals, cross trainers or treadmills, so it’s crucial there is space for this. Bikes and ellipticals are great as they tick the cardio box and don’t take up huge amounts of room.

The key things you need to consider includes the equipment-to-people ratio. Can more than one person move freely around the gym? Are bikes spaced far enough apart that people can mount and dismount without kicking the person next to them?

Space and accessibility is all part of Health and Safety guidelines, which are constantly changing and evolving. Our recommendation is to get a gym consultant involved at this stage. Someone who has experience in siting and designing gyms to fit all spaces.

Students want hi-tech, visual-oriented gym spaces. So your space should include screens and music, as well as the ability for smartwatches and Fitbits to sync with equipment. Again, a gym consultant can help advise on new and emerging trends.

Keep it working

If the equipment doesn’t work people will eventually give up using the gym, and if you’re looking to add running costs into the rental package, then broken machines or weights simply won’t cut it with residents.

It’s important to ensure ongoing maintenance and regular servicing of equipment, as well as updates to well-used items, such as free weights, which can wear down quite quickly when used a lot.

Student accommodation gyms matter

These days, students are more fitness savvy and do use gyms. In fact, a recent report from ukactive found that, of the 6,000 students surveyed, 47% of active students said they never, or rarely, felt feelings of social isolation, which can help reduce some of the pressures of being at University.

As a developer, we understand you’re working within tight margins. But there are a range of ways you can finance the gym and get it paying for itself in years to come. Get in touch to find out how.