Travelers can admire, but not ride, the ten art-bikes currently displayed on top of baggage carousels at Denver International Airport.
But at Philadelphia International Airport passengers can work off some of the calories consumed in the food courts by riding stationary exercise bikes scattered throughout the terminals.
“I was actually looking for an electrical outlet,” said 62-year-old Tom Currie, who was biking while on a three hour layover at PHL last Friday afternoon on his way from San Diego to Rome. “But the bikes are right next to the outlets, so I figured this was a good way to get some exercise instead of sitting around.”
As part of its summer-long Just Plane Fun customer appreciation program, PHL recently replaced a few of its popular rocking chairs in the shopping area between concourses with several hands-free exercise bikes.
Eight additional pieces of low-impact exercise equipment were bundled into a fitness zone that pops up at a different location in the airport every two weeks.
“It’s easy to stiffen up on short or long flights, but even light cardio exercise that doesn’t work up a sweat can help travelers stay loose,” said Rich Hebert, a frequent traveler and the CEO of Smooth Fitness. The fitness equipment manufacturer is based in a Philadelphia suburb and donated the equipment for the summer-program to PHL airport.
Working out at PHL was such an immediate hit that there are now 30 exercise bikes in the terminals. Airport officials are also discussing how to allot equipment maintenance and replacement funds to make the temporary program a permanent fixture.
“Traveling to and through airports is stressful for many people and our job is to make that experience less stressful and more enjoyable,” said James Tyrrell, PHL Deputy Director of Aviation. “This exercise equipment helps us meet that goal. And so far, response in social media and elsewhere has been off the hook.”
While spas and other wellness amenities are no longer rare at airports, “what’s new about the ‘Fitness Zones’ at Philadelphia International Airport is that they bring the gym directly to the concourse, encouraging easy access and low-impact exercise for everyone in the vicinity,” said Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of ACI-NA, which represents most North American airports.
Working on their own or with the American Heart Association, many airports have created walking paths both inside and outside the terminals. In many cities, there are also bike paths to and from the airports. And there are now yoga rooms, usually with loaner mats, at airports in San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago and Burlington, Vt.
Toronto Pearson International Airport has a 10,000-square-foot GoodLife Fitness club inside the terminal and on-property hotels at some airports offer reasonably-priced day passes to airline passengers with long layovers who want access to fitness and spa areas. Examples include the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, The Westin Detroit Airport, the Grand Hyatt DFW and the Fairmont Vancouver Airport.
(My story about working out at Philadelphia International Airport first appeared on NBC News Travel in slightly different form.)
That’s the message an increasing number of airports are giving passengers by posting signs and distributing maps and brochures identifying the number of steps and/or the actual mileage between gates, concourses and terminals.
“If your psyche can handle the moving obstacles – also known as people – airports are natural walking paths,” said Erin Kaese, managing editor of the Athletic-Minded Traveler, “and designated paths mean one’s thoughts can more easily wander.”
Some of the first walking paths at airports were created with employees’ heath in-mind. But everyone is encouraged to go the distance and follow the markers in the corridors at airports in Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Atlanta and Cleveland, where health-related messages are posted on columns along the two-mile CLE Health Walk path first set up in 2010 in partnership with the American Heart Association and the city’s health department.
“Passengers who have time before a delayed flight or layover can get a little exercise in by taking a walk through the airport,” said Jacqueline Muhammad, Community Relations manager for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. “Employees can do the same during their breaks or lunch hour.”
Beyond burning calories, seeing a valuable collection of Northwest-inspired art is the reward at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), where a half-mile mosey to the end of Concourse A passes by sixteen permanent art installations and a variety of rotating temporary exhibits. Skip the moving walkways on the way back to the central terminal and you’ve logged an easy, entertaining mile.
Art is also part of the program at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where the LiveWell Walking Path stretches seven-tenths of a mile in Terminal D, past tiled floor medallions and ending, conveniently, at the airport’s yoga studio.
As part of the Steward Health Care-sponsored Strides for Health program at Boston Logan Airport, there are not only walking paths, but health stations where passengers can check their blood pressure, height, weight and body mass index (BMI).
Eight-foot-tall signs explain how easy it is to burn calories on a layover and free maps detail the walking paths and the length between concourses and terminals.
“I see this as the norm moving forward,” said Brad Jersey, founder and CEO of the nLIVEN Group, which put together the program for Logan and is working on bringing it to other airports. Jersey notes that there’s “pressure on airport authorities to provide healthy avenues and choices for the passengers today.”
The latest airport to join the walking path craze is Phoenix Sky Harbor, which earlier this month unveiled its two-mile, post-security, PHX Fitness Trail inside Terminal 4.
The circuit takes passengers past water-bottle refill stations and offers great views of Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak and the PHX Sky Train bridge, which passes right over an active taxiway.
“We were aware that passengers on layovers enjoy the views from Terminal 4, which serves eighty percent of our passengers, and are often looking for an opportunity to get some exercise between flights,” said airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.
While MSP airport has post-security lockers where walkers can store carry-ons, PHX does not. “But look at it his way,” PHX noted in its Fitness Trail announcement, pulling a roller bag or backpack along the route is “added cardio.”
Not all the airport walking paths are indoors.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has a 1.3-mile FLL Fit Walking Path between the terminals and a bag-storage concession where passengers can leave their carry-ons. There’s also the 12.5-mile BWI Trail circling Baltimore/Washington International Airport, which has a paved trail, an observation area for watching planes take off and land, and a park with a playground.
On its website, San Diego International Airport notes that there’s a shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians connecting the airport to Little Italy and downtown San Diego to the east and to Liberty Station and Point Loma to the west.
And then there’s the hike passengers can take near Anchorage International Airport. After stashing carry-ons at one of the baggage storage concessions, many travelers head for the 4.2-mile paved trail surrounding the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, the busiest seaplane base in the world.
“Just go out the front door and start walking,” said airport manager John Parrott. “Really, it’s just about that easy.”
To get more information about many of these walking paths, as well as mileage information for routes at other airports, use this helpful tool on the American Heart Association website.
(My story about hiking at airports first appeared in my At the Airport column on USATODAY.com)
Although the American Heart Association celebrated National Walking Day on April 3rd this year, it’s a good idea to spend at least part of everyday walking.
And, with long, carpeted concourses and little-used stairways alongside most escalators, airports offer a great place to do some of that walking.
Here’s a list of some U.S. airports that have gone the extra step and mapped out cardio trails inside the terminals. Some airports, such as BWI, list the walking path info on their websites; paths for others, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, can be found on the American Heart Association website.
The Terminal Loop is a 1K round-trip walk along the public side of the terminal’s upper level (the area with white tile floor prior to security checkpoints). Start anywhere along the upper level of the terminal and walk to the end of Concourse A, circle back to the end of Concourse E and return to your starting point.
The Concourse A/B Loop is a 1K round-trip walk inside the secured area of Concourse A and B. Start anywhere along either A or B Concourse. Walk to the end of Concourse A, circle back to the end of Concourse B and return to your starting point.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: The walk from Concourse A to Concourse E is .79 miles. See a map here.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: The path measures seven-tenths of a mile and follow the DFW Art Program floor medallions in International Terminal D. There are markings/signage between each of the twelve medallions between gates D6 and D40. To stretch the walk, there are two 55-foot high staircases that lead up to the Skylink stations.
Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport has a 2 mile Health Walk mapped out for passengers.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has a 1.4 mile walking path and a downloadable brochure to lead the way.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has also paced off the mileage inside the airport: It’s a half-mile from the Central Terminal to the end of Concourse A. Walk the full length of Concourses A, B, C, and D and you’ll have traveled over two miles.
If you know of some other airports that have official walking paths through the terminals, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.