21 Best Practice Guidelines for Fitness Facility Layout & Design

21 Best Practice Guidelines for Fitness Facility Layout & Design`
Courtesy IHRSA.com

Courtesy IHRSA.com

Rudy Fabiano, design principal and founder at Fabiano Designs, contributed to this article.

The success of your health and fitness facility depends, in part, on making the most of your available space. Read these best practices to ensure that you’re making the most of your facility layout.

The design of your health club or fitness facility is the first thing a consumer will notice when visiting your location. Making your facility a comfortable place and a motivating environment for consumers and your members can help build brand equity and retention.


Structural integrity and aesthetic ambiance can work together to create a fantastic fitness facility. Balance practical concerns and design concepts to create a harmonious function and feel.


Whether you are building a new fitness facility or looking to spruce up an existing health club or studio, these best practices will help enhance the look and function of your business.


This article is one in a series of 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.


Best Practices for Fitness Facility Layout & Design


We’ve divided these guidelines into five categories to help you plan your facility:

  1. Create a Design to Support Your Business Model

  2. Plan the Facility

  3. Focus on Safety

  4. Design With the Consumer Experience in Mind

  5. Target Key Areas


Create a Design to Support Your Business Model


1. Your facility design should fit your market and your business model.


2. Answer the following questions: What is your price point? Examples: high-volume/low-price, value, studio, mid-range family, high-end boutique. How can you differentiate yourself in your market? Can you leverage existing trends or create new trends? What programs/programming do you provide, and how much space do you need per consumer?


3. Look for unmet needs in your market—try to fulfill those unmet needs.


Plan the Facility


4. Do the math before you start sketching your facility plans. Create a list of services, spaces, and sizes you need for your business model, and make sure it all fits into your facility. Prioritize what you need in prime locations versus the back of the house.


5. Think and dream big before you start building. What do you envision for your facility 10 years from now? What do you want the community, media, and public to say about your business? What is your facility’s legacy for the value you provide to your community?


6. Leverage natural resources and the unique characteristics of your space during the pre-construction process. Do you have high ceilings or interesting pre-existing architectural components? What is the best way to feature exterior views and capture natural light?


7. Consider how you can expand your space and model beyond the four walls of the physical facility. Creatively use parking lots, green space, and rooftop space, if available. Offer programs in local parks or partner with local businesses that have usable outdoor space.


8. Use technology to allow consumers to connect with your brand and consume programs remotely.

Focus on Safety
Focus on Safety


9. Follow all nationally and locally recognized health and safety requirements.


10. Design an inclusive space compliant with all local ordinances, codes, safety precautions, environmental considerations, and accommodations for people with disabilities. Hire design professionals and engineers that are well-versed with local regulations.


11. Provide enhanced safety with non-slip flooring, appropriate minimum lighting, and sufficient environmental air quality.


12. Install anti-slip flooring in all wet areas and appropriate surfaces throughout the facility to minimize the risk of injury, handle anticipated foot traffic, and one you can easily keep clean and sanitized.


13. Provide personal protective equipment designed to minimize injury risk—e.g., disposable shoe covers for wet areas.


Design With the Consumer Experience in Mind


14. Choreograph the experience from the moment the consumer enters your facility until the time they leave. Everything influences how consumers feel at your facility—what they see when they first walk in, the ability to move throughout the club, hassle points, and the last thing they experience before leaving.


15. Ensure the facility design supports activities occurring within each space. Use materials, flooring, lighting, sound, and technology to create a legitimate experience for the consumer. If your facility has multiple rooms or areas, design for a diverse arrangement where each space has its own unique personality based on its intended use. Break up sight lines in a way that separates areas of different intensity levels


16. Create spaces where consumers and members of all abilities can comfortably gather and socialize. Social integration correlates to retention rate and motivates consumers to come to your facility. Consumers stay where they make friends and feel part of the community.


17. Select colors and materials that reflect the mood you want your members to experience while remaining true to your brand identity.


18. Create ample open walkways allowing uncrowded access to all amenities.


19. Post adequate signage directing consumers to amenities and services.

Target Key Areas
Target Key Areas


20. Facility Entrance: Design adequate space for consumer traffic, socialization, and consumer-employee discussions. Create a seamless member check-in experience so employees can focus on greeting and serving consumers. Post policies for easy reference.


21. Exercise Areas: Properly secure all fitness equipment and allow for proper spacing according to manufacturer recommendations. Secured fitness equipment minimizes movement, improper use, and risk of injury. Provide defined storage space with corresponding signage for loose equipment. Provide adequate sanitization supplies that are visible and easily accessible, and post signage directing consumers to sanitize equipment before and after use.

This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.




The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a global community of health and fitness professionals committed to building their businesses and improving their communities’ health and well-being. The mission of IHRSA is to grow, protect, and promote the health and fitness industry, and to provide its members with the benefits that will help them be more successful. IHRSA and its members (health clubs and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and industry suppliers) are dedicated to make the world healthier through regular exercise. For more information visit www.ihrsa.org.

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