For many who want to keep fit -- especially during the cold, snowy winter months -- getting a membership to an indoor gym is one good way to go. However, gyms aren't typically inspiring places; they often feel a bit drab in their decor and lighting. On top of that, one still really feels like you're imprisoned indoors, so you aren't getting that boost of happy hormones that spending time outdoors will give.
But there's an alternative. Biofit is a fitness and interior design startup that creates what it calls "biophilic gyms" (biophilia means "love of nature"). These are indoor "outdoor" gyms that attempt to create a natural-feeling space that's packed full of plants, natural materials like cork and wood, low-VOC paints, as well as less tangible elements like a digital-free zone for digital detoxing and "circadian lighting" (ie. using blue-toned lights in the morning and redder-toned lights after dark, in order not to disturb our natural sleep cycles). All pretty smart stuff. Here's an introduction to the concept by Biofit founder Matt Morley:
The company was founded back in 2015 by Morley, who says that the Biofit concept is a solution to that uniquely 21st century problem: increasing numbers of people are moving into cities and leading high-stress lives, with a dearth of green space and nature to enjoy, much less run around in.
Morley himself was inspired by years spent in South Africa and Montenegro, completely surrounded by nature and training exclusively outdoors using his own bodyweight, which he found an effective way to keep fit.
Perhaps that's the most striking thing about Biofit's gyms around the world, some of which have been temporary pop-up affairs (the latest one in Calgary is a permanent location). The standard bulky exercise equipment is replaced with handcrafted wooden structures, leather handweights, sandbags and punching bags, and natural-fibre climbing ropes.
Floors are covered in textured materials, or, as in case of Biofit Calgary, covered with judo mats filled with a recycled padding. These are essential to training sessions that may involve a lot of footwork or rolling around. There's a bit of subtle aromatherapy too: natural cleaning products with a bit of pine essence is used, and the indoor air quality is improved with the use of an air purifier and humidifier.
Biofit's classes also reflect this innovative approach to fitness and interior design, and incorporate a natural approach to training, using one's bodyweight only. Here's a description of their "Movement and Mobility" class in Calgary:
Bodyweight only, skill-based, mindful movement for body control with full body mobility that increases range of motion and releases muscle soreness. You can expect rolling, balancing, jumping, footwork, locomotion, hanging and inversions and each session ends with brain training/meditation.
Definitely not your typical gym, and it's perfect for places like Calgary, which might see chilly weather for half the year. Says Morley:
People [in Calgary] seem to love spending time outdoors and they are surrounded by impressive mountain ranges but they also have a long, snowy winter and nobody was offering any 'Vitamin Nature' in their gyms. We filled the gap and created our own niche.
Generally Biofit resonates in places where people have a strong affinity with nature but weather conditions, distance or other convenience factors mean they end up operating on a nature deficit basis for much of their lives, waiting for that next hit of nature on the weekend or family holiday.
The company is now working with institutions, gyms and hotels around the world to integrate more biophilic-inspired fitness spaces. As we are seeing more examples of biophilic design popping up in our furniture and our buildings, it only makes sense that gyms are the next candidate up, ripe for change.
"We want to kickstart a quiet revolution that reunites nature and fitness, encouraging more people to move more often," says Morley.