Airports have long since been a sanctuary for inactivity. It is not the traveler’s fault – bored and tired airline passengers are bombarded with fast food, moving sidewalks, escalators and chairs. Sure, the odd few perform a few stretches at the gate, or opt for the stairs. And of course, there is always the reluctant runner sprinting through the airport with bags in tow. But, the majority of us are those sitting in an uncomfortable chair or leaning against a wall, willing our flights to depart.
The winds however, seem to be changing. Airports worldwide are collaborating with gyms, hotels and health organizations to offer up free and paid fitness opportunities for passengers. From walking routes to fully equipped gyms, the sedentary transit passenger now has a few more opportunities to move. The question is now – will the trend catch on, or will we continue to use airports as voluntary lazy days?
The American Heart Association has begun a great trend of installing simple walking tracks throughout airports in the United States, as part of the Start Walking program. These trails are more than connections from your terminal to the food court – they map out various routes throughout the airport, highlighting the number of steps taken, displaying healthy living posters and providing the occasional cardio-boost with optional step courses. Best of all – these walking trails are completely free!
- Dallas Fort Worth (DFW): 1 ¾ mile path from D6 to D40, with optional step courses in the form of 55-foot high staircases at Terminal D’s two Skylink people mover stations. The art work along the path is part of enjoying the journey!
- Indianapolis (IND): Four tracks in total: ¼ mile through ticketing, two ½ mile tracks in each concourse, and a 1.1 mile track around both concourses.
- Minneapolis St Paul (MSP): 1.4-mile path in Terminal 1-Lindbergh.
- Cleveland (CLE): 1 ½ mile path.
- Lambert-St Louis (STL): 1 ½ mile path.
Yogis, yoginis and generally cramped up travelers can now stretch out at yoga studios in select American airports. No longer must you perform subtle – or flat out embarrassing – stretches at your departures gate. These studios offer up a space, a mat and props, enabling you to stretch, meditate and exercise a layover away. While none goes so far as to offer consistent classes, Chicago O’Hare does run a teaching video and Burlington has the occasional teacher pop by.
- San Francisco (SFO): Free 24-hour studio in Terminal 2 with mats and props available.
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD): Free room open from 6am – 10pm in Terminal 3, includes yoga teaching video, full mirrors, bamboo floors and soothing sounds.
- Dallas Fort Worth (DFW): Free studio near D40 with mats and props available.
- Burlington (BTV): Free bamboo-floored room that operates with the support of a local yoga studio (and offers occasional classes).
Gyms and Pools
For those craving a more rigorous workout, a handful of airports have opened up gyms for transit passengers. While a few gyms exist independently inside a terminal, most are run out of airport hotels connected directly to the airport. Passengers are able to pay a small fee for access to cardio machines, weight rooms, pools, showers and often a steam room and sauna. Munich Airport goes above and beyond, by offering a Finnish Spa and Personal Trainers to guests, while a few other facilities offer gym clothes rentals for a nominal price.
- Toronto Pearson (YYZ): Good Life in Terminal 1 – $15 entrance and free for members. The gym offers luggage storage, changerooms and showers. Reebok shoe and clothing rentals are available.
- Dubai (DXB): G-Force Health Club in Sheikh Rashid Terminal – $13/hour.
- Singapore Changi (SIN): The Ambassador Hotel and Aerotel offer fitness facilities and a pool.
- Zurich (ZRH): Radisson Blu Fitness Center on basement floor – $43/two hours and upwards.
- Vancouver (YVR): Fairmont Hotel at USA Departures Hall – $18 entrance and $10 clothing rental.
- Dallas (DFW): Grand Hyatt Fitness Center and Spa on the SkyLink/Terminal Link – $30 day pass.
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD): Hilton Athletic Club in Terminal 2 – $10 – 20 day pass.
- Munich (MUC): Kempinski Hotel Fit & Fly between Terminal 1 and 2 – $40 for day pass.
More Fitness Options
A few airports have taken fitness offerings to an entirely new level, offering up creative and downright impressive ways for transit passengers to stay active.
If stuck on an extended layover at Zurich Airport, be sure to rent yourself a pair of roller blades, a bicycle (with helmet) or Nordic walking poles and set out around the perimeter of the airport. Prices vary from $12 to $45, depending on the item rented and the duration of the rental. With a wide variety of sizes for men, women and children, this is a great way to entertain an entire family in Switzerland.
Seoul Incheon Airport notoriously hits the extremes for inventive and elaborate airport infrastructure, and a trip through the ICN Ice Forest is an absolute must. Skating itself is free, and rentals for men, women and children price between $2 and $4. The artificial ice rink is open daily from 10AM to 8PM and is located in the Transportation Center. Of course if ice skating is not your thing, you could always swing by the 330-yard Driving Range and the 18-hole course at the Incheon Golf Course, conveniently located in the airport’s International Business Area, a 3-minutes free shuttle ride away from Terminal 3. Open from 5:30AM to 11PM, a full 18 holes costs approximately $65, while a half hour on the driving range comes in at about $2.
And finally, Munich Airport has done a great job at creating family-friendly activities through the establishment of their Visitor’s Park. Here, families can hike up the man-made observation hill for a great view of the airport or, better yet, sign up for a round of 18-hole mini golf. A round costs $5 for an adult and $3 for children under 16. Open daily from 9:30am – 5pm, this is a great spot to have your kids burn off some steam between flights. A 3-minute shuttle connects the park to the main airport.
While some may roll their eyes at these elaborate facilities opening up in a space with ample walking opportunities already, they do seem to be catching on. So – are they worth it? Are travel days your lazy days or do you prefer to be active during a layover?