Heartline Fitness


ADA Fitness Guidelines – The Basics…

Room of exercise equipment

Does your fitness center meet ADA compliance standards?  If you’re not sure, read on…. 

The following summarizes the basics about ADA compliance as it relates to private and public facilities, and their fitness centers.   For complete information, visit ada.gov or IHRSA’s “Issues” page, ihrsa.org/ada.    Also, be sure to review your state’s requirements concerning accessibility.   If you still have concerns, we recommend contacting your law firm.

What is ADA?

ADA refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires facilities to provide equal access and opportunity to individuals with disabilities including those in wheelchairs and other supportive devices.

Is There A Compliance Date?

The Department of Labor (DOJ) ADA standards of 1991 were updated in 2010, and allowed public and private properties until March 15, 2012 to become compliant.

Are Any Facilities Considered Grandfathered?

No, No, and No!  There is no such thing as “grandfathering” of existing sites and facilities in ADA.   All public and private facilities existing and new must meet the new ADA fitness center guidelines.   Consequently, commercial real estate properties and health clubs have to modify existing policies and procedures to allow individuals with disabilities equal access to services, and remove physical barriers that would impede compliance.


Penalties are stiff.   First ADA violation is $55,000 and $110,000 for each subsequent violation.

Equipment Spacing/Layout

Essentially, it is required that any fitness machine in the facility (regardless of whether or not the machine can be used by a disabled individual) should be accessible from either the front or side.  At least one of each “type” of exercise equipment must have clear floor space of 30″ x 48″ and a slope of 2%.    Type of equipment is considered a “category” of equipment, i.e. treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, steppers, rowers are all considered a fitness equipment category.   If there are rows and rows of equipment, one machine of each category must have side and front/rear access; this access can be shared by two equipment categories.  In other words, if a row contains three treadmills and three ellipticals, it would be permitted to provide “shared” side access to the third treadmill and the first elliptical.  Also, the accessible route to this shared floor space cannot be obstructed.

Strength Equipment Layout and Floor Bolting

Unlike cardiovascular equipment, strength equipment are considered separate and distinct machines, and thus all must have side and front/rear accessibility.  But, here again, access of clear floor space can be shared by two machines.   In terms of bolting down equipment, particularly strength equipment, this is not covered under ADA.   However, bolting down strength units is recommended by all major fitness equipment manufacturers.

Does the ADA Apply to Your Property?

All the above being said, ADA compliance specifically requires that PUBLIC USE FACILITIES, comply with these standards.   Because most multi-family properties’ fitness centers are for private residents’ use, it appears they DO NOT come under the ADA guidelines.  But the ADA may be applied to properties that get some public funding.  Regardless, we still want the community to be aware of such guidelines, and we recommend the property consult legal counsel to determine if in fact the property qualifies for private status under these ADA guidelines. It should also be noted that all major fitness-related associations recommend the same or similar standards for fitness standards and there are liability issues to be considered in the ignoring them.

Action Plan

If you don’t know where you stand on ADA compliance, as it relates to your fitness center, you probably need to start conducting a facility review:  1) inspect the facility per layout guidelines, 2) establish an improvement plan if required, 3) review existing policies and procedures for ADA compliance, and 4) conduct regular staff training on dealing with disabled customers.
For further information and background on the fitness center layout and design process, please don’t hesitate in contacting Heartline Fitness today at 800-262-3348, or by email at [email protected]
By Bob Burgess, President , Heartline Fitness Systems, 8041 Cessna Avenue, Suite 200, Gaithersburg, MD  20879, heartlinefitness.com, 800-262-3348

Close Mobile Navigation