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+ What is biophilic design and how is it used in a biofit nature gym??

Biophilic design reunites indoor and outdoor worlds in urban architecture and interiors. Typically found in residential, hotel and office buildings, hospitals and retail stores; not previously found in gyms. Think natural plants, textures, colours, visuals, shapes, scents, sounds and materials to create a healthy, green eco-friendly space. Biophilia also gave us our brand name biofit. For more info on our gym design services read here.

+ What was the genesis of Biofit?

Biofit owner Matt Aspiotis Morley comes from a real estate development and hotel background professionally but fitness had been his passion for more than 25 years before he eventually decided to combine the two interests.

His training had been moving towards outdoor, equipment-free, largely bodyweight sessions while at the same time he identified a gap in the market for a more nature-inspired version of the contemporary fitness facility that combined the latest trends in healthy, wellness-oriented interior design principles with biophilic, natural design components. Mix all that together and out pops biofit!

+ Do you design fitness studios or gyms? What's the difference?

Firstly, let us be clear in the distinction between a group class-based fitness 'studio', with a limited equipment set-up, as opposed to a 'gym' facility with a full equipment set-up covering cardio, strength, movement and mobility zones.

The former could live within a wider gym or healthcare centre context for example while the latter is better suited to residential, hotel or office buildings where a wider range of needs is to be met.

An independent biofit gym could of course combine elements of both, with a group class area and gym facility in one place.

Additionally, we must think about space allocation for changing areas, bathrooms, reception and optional heat therapy rooms (sauna / steam) and treatment rooms (massage, physiotherapy) in larger sites. Health & juice bar areas for retail can also be added when suitable.

+ How much space do you need for a gym?

In terms of total floor space, anything from +/- 50sq. metres for a movement studio (100% training space, no other facilities included) up to 1000sq. metres with both indoor and outdoor space for a full health club offer can work.

Smaller spaces lend themselves to more focused personal and small group training due to the higher yields while larger spaces open up opportunities for zoning the usage of the gym floor via the choices of equipment and materials, offering a wider range of training modalities and keeping more people happy.

A larger outdoor space of say 500 sq. metres would mean we can build obstacles into the terrain while 100 sq. metres is a good indoor studio floor size and 300sq. metres will give you a full-size gym with changing areas and reception as well as one large open-plan or two small training areas.

+ Do you design outdoor gyms?

Yes, we design outdoor gym spaces too, see our gym in Montenegro as an example; in fact this type of set-up is a great opportunity to practice what we preach by training outdoors in the open air and incorporating far more endurance work than a machinery-free indoor space could allow for.

Outdoor spaces mean we cannot control the environment in the same way as we do indoors, so air quality, temperature, ventilation, shading, lighting and so on need to be taken into extra consideration.

+ What about the plants in your gyms? who selects them? do they need maintenance

We select oxygenating plants for indoor use as well as indigenous plants as a priority, it's all about purifying the air, reducing pollutants in the gym space and creating a sense of place.

Generally these plants will need watering 1-2 times each week (a receptionist or other team member could do that) and we recommend a gardener visits every month or two to check on the health of the plants.

If there is limited natural light or you prefer to avoid such ongoing operational costs, there are various alternatives available such as working with preserved moss that has zero maintenance requirements.

See our landscaping page for info.

+ Do you design eco-friendly, sustainable gyms and if so how?

We take a mindful approach to the selection of all our materials, prioritizing the natural and sustainable wherever possible. We are especially conscious of bringing any products or materials with airborne Volatile Harmful Compounds (VOCs) into the gym space. We therefore choose to work with suppliers who have responsible business practices. The fitness industry in particular has a long way to go in this sense and it can be frustrating at times but we aim to lead by example and promise complete transparency along the way.

Earth-friendly design elements include:

recycled wool underlay mats for extra padding on training areas

eco rubber flooring mats in cardio machine and/or weights area

Japanese tatami mats made of rice straw (inside) and dried rush grass (top layer)

non-VOC / non-toxic paint on the walls for clean indoor air

WaterRower natural rowing machines made with sustainably sourced hardwoods

upcycled wood planter boxes for our air-purifying plants around the edges of the room

sustainable cork wall panels, muscle rollers and balls

air-purifying, eco-friendly moss panels in the ceiling

Philips Hue circadian rhythm lighting systems that use less energy morning and night while reducing disruption to sleep patterns

manually powered, electricity-free sprint treadmills from Woodway

electricity-generating running machines and indoor cycles from SportsArt

locally sourced, hand-carved pine wood pull-up bars and balance beams

natural fibre climbing ropes

+ what are the main advantages of the biofit training method?

It develops new skills and neurological pathways; it prompts higher commitment levels a.k.a 'sticky factor'; it improves joint mobility and it is above all else fun, inclusive, motivating and interactive. Clients feel more connected to nature, less stressed and of improved mood after training with us (see our research results here for evidence of this).

+ what size of group fitness class do you recommend for a studio space?

Generally in terms of teaching skill-based classes like biofit (unlike say, a spinning class), anything over 15 or 16 people is difficult to control and the coach will not be able to give as much personal attention to each student.

Anything is possible of course but if we're talking ideal solutions, we recommend offering some combination of Personal training (one-on-one), Small Group Training (from 2 to 6 pax) and Group Class (1-15 pax). See our Natural Fitness page for more information as well as our press page with reviews of a Biofit class experience.

+ do you train coaches in your group fitness method?

Yes, we offer 1-day training workshop in the biofit method delivered directly on-site to your coaching team, upon request and with a fee. Contact us for details.

+ do you operate gyms or just design them?

Our business is about providing a complete turnkey solution to a network of independent business partners who open their own gyms and fitness studios with our assistance. We design the interiors, select the equipment and where applicable train the coaches in our class method, then offer ongoing advice / assistance, music playlists, new workouts and so on during the year, if needed. So it can be an ongoing relationship or you simply hire our gym design services and we leave it at that once the project is delivered.

+ what equipment do you need for your gym?

We work with you to select the right equipment to match the size of the space, the demands of the local target market and your particular vision / preferences.

A smaller space will need to be multi-functional with as much open floor space as possible meaning large wooden strength equipment would be less appropriate, while a larger gym set-up would include both cardiovascular equipment and free weights. When wooden obstacles, balance beams or pull-up bars are part of the package, we collaborate with a local carpenter using indigenous, sustainable wood chosen for its smooth finish.

As a general rule, wherever possible we source from local or national suppliers in order to reduce costs and environmental impact so if you are in the US we will buy from American suppliers, for example rather than send everything from Thailand! See our equipment page for more info.

+ How do you integrate multi-sensory design principles into your gyms?

Examples of this approach include:

our own acoustic world music playlists for audio inspiration (Biofit MusicToMoveTo example here)

forest aromatherapy ‘phytoncides’ for focus and vitality (see background article here)

tactile materials underfoot, such as Japanese tatami mats and 7mm thick ‘grass effect’ eco-carpet tiles by Interface

gym equipment with fibrous textures, natural imperfections and the patina of age, such as leather sandbags and medicine balls, handcarved pine pull-up beams, etc (more info here)

incorporating elements of breath work and mindfulness training into out fitness classes (more info here)

large-scale nature walls, be they living plants or photographic representations, create a visual feast for the senses during a workout (see our stockholm and london gyms)

+ What type of clientele does Biofit appeal to most? Is it premium, mass market or luxury?

One of our strongest selling points is the wide appeal of the concept, far wider than a classic gym environment with its rows of machinery, poorly chosen music and uninspiring atmosphere. Everybody connects with nature on some level, our equipment is easy to use and our training method is fully scaleable, from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced.

This opens the door to attracting those who prefer training outdoors rather than in an underground box for example, or those who simply dislike the atmosphere of most standard gym experiences. Equally, biofit appeals directly to anyone who participates in outdoor activities by offering them an alternative gym concept that talks their language.

+ What are the benefits of working in a biofit designed gym or studio?

From a user perspective, our gyms are spaces designed to improve mood and reduce stress levels. They are purified, natural and non-toxic environments, meaning we think about the materials we use as well as the cleaning protocols, air filtration and humidity levels, aromatherapy, acoustic music playlists, and so on.

Everything is carefully curated at brand level and then implemented at local level to deliver a uniquely multi-sensory experience with tangible health benefits. For evidence of the health benefits, see our scientific research study into Vitamin Nature design in association with the University of Essex here.