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Landscape Trend Mixes Exercise and Play

With even more ideas towards live, work and play at home, the trend towards mixing exercise and play in your natural environment outdoors is one that you can welcome this year to your own backyard.

One of the most innovative displays at the Canada Blooms Show was the incredible landscape design concept of the garden playground for adults that combined a form of boot camp style exercises performed in an outdoor setting designed to help strengthen one’s health and their connection to nature.

The concept is unique in that the designed landscape features of the garden are used as an exercise circuit to challenge a range of ages and fitness levels. Shawn Gallaugher owns Shawn Gallaugher Design and specializes in this creative approach to design that reflects  the landscape character of the region along with the individual needs and personalities of the property owner.


His unique Otium outdoor exercise garden was constructed by Floresterra Greenhouses and Landscape Centre at Canada Blooms, and showcased how to use both the land and designed landscape for exercise. “A natural playground is specifically planned along with a fitness regime that provides for an exercise circuit to be performed outdoors in an inspirational setting,” he said.


Here’s some ways to design a landscape that mixes exercise and play:

  • Look around and use the natural landscape to build upon
  • Light bollards or a banding pattern in a driveway can serve as distance markers
  • Paving materials spaced apart on the ground can create an obstacle course
  • Natural ropes, posts and railings are perfect for pulling, pushing and stretching
  • Exposed beams and brackets can be used to attach bands and bars
  • Retaining walls placed at various heights can extend activity age and levels of difficulty
  • Arbors and trellises can include attachments to allow for all types of strength training routines
  • Sheds, gazebos, bunkies and garages can complement your outdoor gym in bad weather and can add space for equipment and seasonal storage

“Landscape features can be designed to be multifunctional and support a range of outdoor activities and exercise programs.” said Gallaugher. In some designs, he includes the surrounding environment, such as hiking trails or biking, walking and running routes along walkways or roads. A workout near the lakeshore might include swimming and paddling and often unique topographical features of the area can be incorporated, such as a steep grade for cardio or rocky terrain for climbing.


Since the majority of people today live in urbanized environments, it’s important for people to exercise and connect with nature everywhere. There is terrific potential for outdoor open space exercise programs just about anywhere and it’s easy these days to incorporate a green gym.

Editor, Dawn Boshcoff

How do you incorporate exercise and play into your landscape design?

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