Posted on May 31, 2020 by Gordon Smith

Gym design is an area where professionalism shines through. The difference between a good gym and a truly great gym is obvious when you see it.

When you use a truly great gym, you’ll notice something … a bit different. What could have been a mundane workout space has been transformed into a light, bright, health and wellness space. A space which amplifies the corporate brand (if it’s an office-space), provides an area for the whole family to bond and exercise together (if it’s a home gym) or creates a unified exercise environment for a diverse group of residents (if it’s a residential gym).

And in many ways the difference is what you don’t do as much as what you do. You don’t experience annoying person-flow, dark corners, difficult-to-use equipment, old-fashioned rows of treadmills, blocked walkways and stale air.

With that in mind, let’s look at 10 things that the great gym design experts know – that you don’t. Until now!

1. Management and maintenance is as important as design

One thing we’ve learned over the 20 years we’ve been designing and installing gyms is that gym management is almost as important as design.

If you manage and maintain your gym in tip-top condition throughout its lifetime, it will ensure that it is fully utilised, always in perfect running order, and maybe even turn a profit (see below for how your gym can pay for itself).

Gym management means having the right people on-premises or on-call to check, fix, maintain or (if necessary) replace equipment. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting changed for a workout only to find your favourite piece of equipment is out of order.

But it also means having the right approach to spot problems before they arise, understand health and safety risks and have a great understanding of the gym users.

Gym management needs to be thought through before the design phase even starts, to ensure that the gym is manageable and easy to maintain.

Gym maintenance need not be as expensive as it might seem. Have a look at our article on ways to save money on gym maintenance.

2. Spaces need to be adaptable

The one constant in the world of gym design is change. Gym design experts know that what gym users want in 2020 will not be what they want in 2025.

That’s why adaptability needs to be built in from the start. The available space will need to accommodate different types of gym classes (today it might be Pilates, yoga, spin, HIIT – who knows what it might be tomorrow?)

So great gym designers will not deliver a space that can only be used for one thing. They’ll think about how gym use will change over time, and deliver an adaptable, ever-changeable space that can move with the times.

3. Residential gyms are a value-add and a sales tool

When it comes to residential gyms (gyms built into residential apartment blocks, Build to Rent projects, communal living spaces etc.) what do gym design experts know?

They know that customers (yes customers, not tenants) are looking for the best possible deal. A free gym built into the residence is a value-add which can keep customers renting for longer periods of time. This minimises fallow rental periods and the hassle of changing tenants.

But residential gyms are not all the same. Dark, dank basement spaces with old-fashioned equipment will not do.

To keep customers happy, residential gyms must offer light, bright, workout spaces, top-flight equipment, a space for residents to meet and bond with each other, and a space which caters for a wide range of users.

When done right, all these things can combine to deliver a residential gym experience that can sell your rental property and keep customers happy for years, as they put down roots and build their families.

Have a look at our article on The Essentials of BTR Gym Design.

4. Well-designed mirrors and lighting provide vital feedback and lots of extra light.

Mirrors and lighting in gyms should never be an afterthought.

Considered vital pieces of gym equipment by many users, mirrors help users get visual feedback on their workout and body-shaping progress.

But they also provide an opportunity to increase the feeling of space and light within the gym. Read our article on using mirrors in the gym.

5. Home gyms must focus on the whole family

In 2020, there is a very marked upswing to a focus on the wellness and fitness of the whole family.

During the pandemic lockdown, families who had never exercised together before started working out together. Joe Wicks’s daily workouts introduced us to the idea of the whole-family exercise routine.

But the whole situation increased awareness of the home as a potential gym space. More and more customers are spending increased time in the home and, as such, want to maximise their time and space.

Expert gym designers have known of this trend for years, but the pandemic has accelerated the trend enormously.

Home gyms are family workout spaces and need to cater for the needs of the whole family, from the youngest to the oldest.

Read more about family and private gyms.

6. Gyms must go green and stay green

Another key trends that gym design experts know is the trend towards green and environmentally-friendly design and equipment.

This is much more than just a few plants situated throughout the gym. It’s a whole-design philosophy which can incorporate lighting, power, recycling at every stage and an overall reduction in carbon emissions.

As we move towards a carbon-free economy, gyms must reduce their footprint both in day-to-day usage and in the process of procuring and maintaining equipment.

From energy-efficient lighting through to the recycling and re-use of plastics, there are many ways of making the gym more energy-efficient.

And, as motive8 MD Nick Sadler points out:

Eco and wellness are intrinsically linked. You go to a gym to boost wellbeing, so the space around you should reflect and encourage that state of mind.’

Find out more about eco and green gyms.

7. Corporate gyms should amplify a brand’s values

When it comes to corporate gyms, gym design experts know that the gym is an opportunity to amplify the brand’s values.

Companies know that corporate values and mission must permeate all they do. The gym is no exception.

Companies are placing a real focus on employee wellness and wellbeing, in both the physical and mental health senses.

Therefore, the gym is an ideal opportunity to show employees (and the rest of the world) that caring about staff is built into the corporate mission and values.

Not only that, but the physical space can reflect and amplify the brand’s look and feel.

So, feel free to find out more about what your gym design says about your company.

8. Corporate gyms should be able to turn a profit

Talking of corporate gyms, another thing that gym design experts know is that they should be able to turn a profit.

Gym ownership should not be considered a drain on resources. In fact, there can and should be a positive ROI when building a corporate gym.

Despite the lower membership fees, building the right kind of gym for the right set of users can mean the gym is a profit centre.

Read more about how a corporate gym can pay for itself.

9. Staying on-trend is vital

The world of gym design is driven by trends.

This may sound like a bad thing, but it need not be. Look at the central trends in gym design over the last five years or so – you’ll see the move towards whole-body fitness, mental health and corporate wellbeing, fitness for the whole family, fitness for people in later life, a holistic approach to wellbeing in corporate environments, lower carbon-emissions and green gym design.

And of course, the trend towards the digitisation of health and fitness underpin the way gyms are heading. Find our more about the digital gym.

We see all these trends as highly positive for humans and for the planet. So, there’s no need to be afraid of gym design trends.

However, it is vitally important to be on top of trends and have the ability to see what’s around the corner in the next few years. That way, gym designs delivered today can be adaptable for the future and be relevant and profitable for years to come.

10. Cater to your market

The final thing that gym design experts know is that all gyms must dovetail precisely with their intended market. A later living gym, for example, will feature radically different layout, equipment and design than a corporate gym in an inner-city environment.

Getting feedback regularly from gym users is important. Listening and making small tweaks or big changes is the way to keep your gym up to date and relevant.


Gym design is a professional service which draws on many disciplines. It requires knowledge of architecture, interior design, branding, building and of course, an in-depth knowledge of health and fitness. Not to mention a great feel for the latest trends and directions in health and wellbeing.

If you are planning to upgrade a gym or turn an existing space into a gym or workout zone, contact us on 020 8481 9700 to get an idea of how, with imagination, your space can be transformed.