Trends in Campus Recreation

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Balancing the needs of students, community members, and staff means campus rec centers have to innovate to keep growing. While growth is exciting, it is also daunting to manage diverse needs of their members, ranging from fitness goals, desires for class offerings, equipment and facility expectations, and even requirements from the physical design of campus rec centers. How can campus rec centers stay ahead of the curve? Below you’ll find an overview of campus rec trends and the questions campus rec centers can answer to remain the center of campus community life.  

Equipment and Facilities

In a robust study of 33,500 students, NIRSA demonstrates clearly that cardio equipment remains the most heavily used portion of campus rec centers. From treadmills and ellipticals to stationary bikes, participants value this type of workout. Beyond these cardio machines, strength training with free weights remains a highly rated workout amongst campus recreation participants. A newer trend in campus rec is the addition of outdoor activities, from hiking, biking, walking and jogging in groups.  

Studies that ask participants what equipment they use are limited by what actually exists in the rec facility they attend. That’s why Athletic Business put together an outline of trends based on what participants would like to see in their campus rec centers. With imaginations running wild, the majority of participants still communicated that cardio equipment and free weights are hugely important. However, something that remained important in the study is the notion of flexible space. A flexibly designed space can offer multiple solutions for all kinds of people. And participants immediately recognize that value in any campus rec center.  


Technology has been in Campus Rec Magazine Top 10 Fitness Trends since 2016 for good reason. Pre-pandemic, our view of technology might have been limited to wearable technology like fitness trackers, smartwatches and heart rate monitors. In a post-COVID world, technology also includes virtual and online classes and personal training options. When addressing how you integrate technology in your campus rec center, you don’t need to start huge. Even digital check-ins can be the perfect way to start upping the ante on how your rec center uses technology to you and your community’s advantage.  

Classes and Personal Training

In addition to new facility trends for class location, either outdoor or virtual, trends exist in what types of classes participants prefer. This includes High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), body weight training or functional fitness classes, as well as personalized training sessions for individuals. The newest trend that is sure to appeal to the community surrounding campus are programs tailored to older adults. More and more people are interested in their health and are signing up for gym memberships. Having a diversity of class options will help make everyone feel at home.  

Building a facility fit for the diverse needs of a campus community is a tough task. Before you can innovate, you need a tightly-run ship. With a foundation of robust and flexible operating software designed for campus rec centers, your center is equipped to make an impact on the community and prove your value. Book a consultation with the Rec Automation team to learn more.  

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