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Using Softer Lighting in Clubs Can Be a Bright Idea

Have you noticed that sometimes you seem to look better than other times? Perhaps you look younger, healthier or thinner. How can you look better in a mirror at one place and not so good in another place? Often the answer is as simple as different lighting.

Creative use of interior lighting can provide an environment where your customers look and feel better while working out, a psychological effect that other industries that work with the public have known for years. However, the idea of focusing extra attention on lighting still may seem unnecessary to some club owners, especially since for years the attitude of many club owners has been that “lighting is lighting” and that whatever gives the most light, and at the lowest cost, is the best choice.

Lighting is not easy to understand and plan. Variables, such as size of the room, height and type of ceilings, extent of natural light, energy efficiency, room décor, different bulbs and a club's budget, affect lighting decisions. Therefore, club owners need a design or lighting professional to understand the best lighting options.

Research has shown that lighting has a profound effect on people. For example, basic fluorescent lights provide an overly bright environment, are energy inefficient and have a draining effect on people. Therefore, they should be avoided in most public areas. Other options, such as indirect or reflective lighting, provide better results.

A trend in clubs now is that less lighting is better. This does not mean that too little light is better. It just means that the old goal of making the workout area — any area, for that matter — as bright as possible is now defunct. Softer lighting that conveys a feeling of warmth is becoming more popular, especially in entryways and locker rooms. Softer lighting options, such as can lighting, hanging pendants, wall sconces, and track and cove lighting, can create softer lighting while still functioning effectively in certain areas, such as vanity areas where women put on make-up and for operations at the front desk. Also, group exercise areas should have more than one lighting option (such as sconces on dimmers) so that different atmospheres can be created for different types of classes.

Lighting can bring added attention to different aspects of clubs. Track lighting can be used for branding, graphics and areas you want to promote, such as signs for personal training, tanning and products.

The cost of lighting fixtures can complicate decisions about lighting. Two lighting fixtures that look similar and have the same lighting effect can vary substantially in cost. One could cost $100 and the other $300. By understanding this ahead of time, club owners see the importance of shopping for fixtures. Fortunately, the Internet makes shopping easier than in the past since thousands of lighting options can be viewed and purchased online.

Clearly, it is far easier to just do “blanket” lighting — choosing the same lighting for every area in the club — but that would be like doing all workouts with the same piece of equipment. You will get some benefits, but it won't provide the best results.

Lighting can either add energy and fun or cause an uninviting and boring environment. Clubs are selling a service and product — exercise — that most people don't enjoy. Everything that club owners and designers do to positively affect the emotions and senses of members and potential members helps to reduce their resistance to exercise and clubs. Any extra effort put into the optimal lighting for a club will clearly be a noticeable asset in your efforts to make a positive impression on potential and existing members.

Bruce Carter is the president of Optimal Fitness Design Systems International, a club design firm that has created about $420 million worth of clubs in 45 states and 26 countries.

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