Encouraging students to get outdoors and exercise at school is not only great for their physical health and wellbeing, it has a positive impact in the classroom too, promoting enhanced concentration and cognitive function.
The Australian Department of Health recommends that children and young people aged between 5 and 17 years take part in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each day.
“High school students typically don’t have access to the playgrounds they had at primary school. Incorporating an obstacle course, monkey bars or a courtyard dedicated to fitness equipment ensures secondary students can still play and workout at the same time. An outdoor gym creates another social environment that helps to eliminate exclusion,” says Candyce Wright, who recently joined innovative playground and outdoor fitness equipment company, a_space, after spending over a decade working as a personal trainer.
She says there is a distinct correlation between students who are physically active and those who do well at school. “Students’ grades are improved because being physically active means you work with different parts of your brain, improving cognitive and scholastic performance. Using the monkey bars and going from one bar to the next or walking across a balance beam – these sorts of activities make students use their minds in a way they wouldn’t need to inside the classroom.”
Ms Wright points to a study conducted in Copenhagen by 24 lecturers and researchers in 2016. It focused on the benefits of physical activity for people aged between 6 and 18 years-of-age. “The research involved children from eight different countries. It showed that physical activity in children and youth improved not only fitness health but also improved cognitive functioning and helped students retain information,” she explains.
Likewise, a joint research report conducted in 2012 by the University of Canberra and the Australian National University called ‘Schools with fitter children achieve better literacy and numeracy results: Evidence of a school cultural effect’ also highlighted the correlation between physical activity and better academic results.
With rising obesity levels among our nation’s youth, more and more schools are recognising the benefits of offering outdoor fitness equipment to students.
“Schools are more open now to acknowledging the fact they need to teach kids about the importance of balance between the mind and body from a young age. They are acknowledging how different kids learn. PE teachers are encouraging kids to be more active, the next level is offering the option for students to workout. The a_space Fitness Extra range is perfect for secondary students because it provides challenge beyond a normal curriculum,” Ms Wright adds.
a_space’s outdoor fitness range offers equipment for a range of ages and fitness levels. Equipment can be installed individually or combined to create an outdoor gym. The company’s designers work closely with schools to customise a space that best suits the needs of the school and its students.
“The opportunity to move allows their brains to strengthen and grow by increasing the blood flow through the body,” says Ms Wright. “This is associated with memory and problem solving.”
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