While the impact of interior design on the health and well-being of those who inhabit a space is finally being understood, new information has come to light that would suggest interior designers could now be responsible for our fitness levels as well.
According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), there is a growing trend toward ‘active design.’
Rick Bell, executive director of the AIA’s New York Chapter, says architects and designers, specifically in the area of office design, are seeking to meet the physical health and well-being needs of inhabitants and how best to promote a positive lifestyle even for those in sedentary jobs.
“How do you get people moving?” Bell asks. “If exercise and everyday activity is the mantra, how do you, through design, get people to exercise? There is a direct relation between the built environment and people’s lifestyles.”
While this new trend could be perceived as simply an extension of America’s fitness craze, active design has long been on the agenda of Australian designers and healthcare promoters.
A current Heart Foundation campaign ‘Active By Design’ aids in the promotion of ‘supportive environments that encourage people of all ages and capacities to be active in their neighbourhoods, cities and towns is integral to increasing physical activity levels.’
The foundation believes there is a correlation between design and health, fitness and well-being, and that this should be understood so the built environment can be modeled around principles that promote a healthier lifestyle.
There are ways of fulfilling these goals that stop short of putting treadmills in every office. According to the AIA, there are three simple solutions to creating more proactive spaces in general and proactive work spaces in particular. These include promoting stair use, designing spaces for collaboration and promoting natural lighting and indoor/outdoor connections.
These spaces place stairwells somewhere other than in dingy corners and promote the use of stairs, create team-working environments that take employees out of their seats, and create a more proactive, inspiring working atmosphere by promoting outdoor working and activities.
While active design is garnering a lot of acclaim for promoting health and well-being and combating the obesity epidemic, designers enter into a very controversial territory in designing workplaces, or public spaces that promote weight loss.
While improving health and well-being is to be lauded, for Health At Every Size advocates, design with an agenda to promote extended weight loss rather than general health is not necessarily the same thing.
While the benefits of active design are clear, promoting health and well-being over strict weight loss could become both a challenge and a sticking point in ensuring it gains universal approval.