Airports get into fitness craze for stressed-out travelers

ByABC News
September 26, 2012, 3:12 PM

— -- Jennifer Purdie recently had to figure out what to do with a two-hour layover at San Francisco International Airport. She could have gone to a bar and had a cocktail. But she wanted to try something healthier.

So she pulled workout pants and a T-shirt out of her carry-on bag and stopped by the airport's new yoga room. Afterward, she changed in the bathroom, cleaned up with some antiseptic wipes, and boarded her flight in time.

"I try to find a fitness option, especially for long layovers, so I don't feel like I'm wasting my time," she says. "It kind of de-stresses you."

As the country becomes more conscious of its obesity problem, even airports are getting into the fitness craze. With delays and long layovers increasingly common, airports are offering travelers alternatives to passing the hours on a bar stool.

San Francisco International unveiled its yoga room, painted in a calming blue palette, in January in its recently refurbished Terminal 2. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has a 1.4-mile marked walking path in a couple of concourses. At Los Angeles International Airport, travelers can hit an 18-hole golf course or do yoga or tai chi at the LAX Flag Courtyard.

"There certainly is more of an awareness, and there's a great deal more attention given to the idea of maintaining an active, fit lifestyle," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. "It's in large part due to the disturbing obesity statistics our nation is facing. With regard to air travel, it's also an attempt to limit the risks of air-related health problems."

Among potential hazards: blood clots from sitting in cramped quarters, dehydration or jet lag. Moving regularly, drinking lots of water and eating healthy would improve the increasingly uncomfortable flying experience, Bryant says.

"Really, if people would just look for any and every opportunity to move when they're traveling, they will feel better during travel and when they reach their destination," he says.

A list of airport gyms

Kevin Gillotti considers himself an athlete first and a traveler second. A few years ago, he figured out how to combine his two passions by starting a website called He encourages travelers to write in when they find a fitness center at an airport or within a 10- to 15-minute ride from one. He then lists them by state.

"I'd have these massive layovers where I'm sitting there doing nothing, and for an active guy like me, I can't sit like that," says the San Diego-area resident and avid runner. "I think the public is slowly coming around to fitness and the value of it."

For many airports, building a gym can be risky. A restaurant or other concession may be a better payoff for the limited amount of space. There are also security concerns. For that reason, experts say, you will likely find most fitness options outside of an airport's security zone.

Still, many airports are experimenting with options such as the yoga room. They are also attracting food vendors with more organic and healthier dishes on their menus.

"I think airports are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and to stand out," says Jason Clampet, editor of guidebook publisher