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The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to how society works, lives and plays as successive lockdowns placed restrictions on how we socialised; how many people we were allowed to see and how far we could travel.

One of the biggest challenges especially for children and young adults came with the closure of schools, colleges, nurseries and outdoor playgrounds with, in some instances local authorities even chaining up and restricting access to playground equipment and outdoor fitness equipment too.

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Children’s Mental and Physical Health Affected

Studies are underway to gauge the effect of the pandemic on children who have been unable to play outdoors with friends as they normally would, with an emphasis on how children and young people have had to adapt and learn newer methods of play.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an enormous effect on the mental health of children and adults alike particularly in households with no outside space and in homes where children were suddenly forced to spend more time with parents who were perhaps working from home or were furloughed. Research has shown that childhood anxiety has increased due to enforced change in circumstances, not being able to see friends or go to school and through having to deal with parents’ worries as well.

We are seeing evidence of the increasing toll of mental and physical health conditions needing to be treated as a result of the lack of exercise, for children and adults. The closure of sports facilities has shown to be a major factor in increased anxiety and depression and this is largely attributed to the disruption in social cohesion amongst sports teams as well as amongst school groups. The closure of gyms, parks and outdoor play equipment areas has meant the reduction in physical activity was matched by an increase in virtual games and social media usage. In other words; the perfect storm for weight gain, loss of fitness and disrupted sleep patterns.

How Outdoor Exercise and Play Benefits Children

outdoor trampolineChildren learn how to socialise and how to correctly conduct relationships when they interact with their friends and peers and the worry is that many very young children are unable to form relationships with friends or make new friendships.

Indoor and online exercise programmes have played a part in raising morale during the pandemic but cannot replace the vital benefits that social interaction brings through play and exercise outdoors in the fresh air. As life starts to get back to normal there could be a renewed appreciation for our outdoor spaces and the outdoor play equipment we once took for granted.

outdoor gym equipment

The pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of many people. It has made us look at the way in which we do a number of things, and in many cases made us consider ways in which we can change some of those things for the better.

With gyms and indoor spaces closed for much of the last 12 months, people have had to find alternative ways of exercising. At the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, the government gave people the lifeline of being able to go out to exercise each day. With so many people on furlough or stuck at home with children, in combination with the unseasonably warm weather that we had, many people did just that. Whether it was by utilising outdoor fitness equipment, or walking and cycling locally, many people found a really benefit to getting outdoors.

outdoor fitness equipment for parks

Fresh air

There is something about exercising in the fresh air that simply can’t be replicated in an indoor setting. It has so many health benefits and is also great for mental health; something which has certainly been an issue during the pandemic. Adults have been dusting off their bikes and going for long rides; they have been purchasing bike trailers or tag alongs so that their children can join them, often with the promise that the ride will end at the park – now that they are open. This is of

course great motivation for children and the end result in many cases is that parents are spending more time outside with their children and they are exercising together.

bespoke monkey bars

It isn’t just those people with children who have changed the way in which they exercise during the pandemic. Those individuals who visited a gym at least a couple of times a week, and those who have found themselves with little to do due to furlough have been finding ways to fill the gaps, such as utilising outdoor fitness equipment or switching on their favourite YouTube workout session. Walking has also become a lot more popular as well and people have been exploring their local areas and discovering places they never even knew existed. Green spaces and national parks seem to be more popular than ever before.

What’s next?

Even when the gyms do open up people may not initially feel comfortable going to them. They may also decide that the money that they were spending on membership and gym wear can be put to better use elsewhere, such as a custom-built outdoor fitness equipment for their own garden or visiting the free to use outdoor fitness areas in local parks. The thought of claustrophobic indoor gyms with heavy breathing, sweaty bodies somehow doesn’t feel too appealing any more. They have found that they can in fact mix exercise and spending time with their children, all whilst enjoying fresh air in their local area.

Outdoor fitness equipment for all!

Of course, there are those people who will be outside their gym waiting for them to open the doors as soon as the announcement is made – but for many the pandemic is likely to have made a significant different to how they exercise. So, if you’re considering whether to purchase your own outdoor fitness equipment to help you reap the benefits of outdoor exercise at home, we’d be happy to help plan a set for you.

outdoor fitness rig

Garden Gym Equipment

Living through the pandemic has given us a whole new perspective on spending time outdoors, whether this has been to combat isolation from being home alone and being able to meet with friends outdoors, or being unable to be in the gym due to social distancing measures they must have in place.

But what better way is there for you to spend your leisure and exercise time than benefitting from the great outdoors?  Being outdoors is great for our mental health as well as offering fresh air and the chance for physical exercise and many of us might want to take this renewed love for being outside and use it to improve our health in the new year.

If this is you, but you’re not sure how to begin, or how to keep motivated, why not take a look at the tips below.

Start as you mean to go on

Firstly, decide what your goals are – are you looking to run a marathon, lift heavier, get fitter, or lose some excess weight. Whatever your main goal is, break it down into smaller ones; each goal you reach will motivate you to crack on with the next.

Next, work out where you’ll work out. With the restrictions regarding the pandemic meaning gym access may be a struggle for a while, why not consider building your own? Remember, exercise need not be a chore and with the great range of outdoor gym equipment available, there most certainly isn’t any reason to become bored or not have fun when working out.

An outdoor workout on wooden gym equipment can offer a fun workout whether you are alone or challenging a friend.  Set yourself realistic targets and celebrate your achievements too; the more you do, the more you will manage, want and be able to do.

Stick at it

Like all exercise programs, once the initial honeymoon period is over, you might start to lose motivation, but consistency is key to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re losing the love of a good workout, why not:

Do it with a friend or partner, a little competitive spirit and someone to spur you on when you are having a weak moment can make it easier to carry on.

Do it at a time you can stick with, and choose a time that you know you are free. Turn it into a habit.

Do what you love, we all loved a playground as a child. So why not recreate your childhood memories with the exciting range of wooden playground equipment now available for adults.

Of course, there will be moments when you might not really feel like fitting in a workout, but with your own outdoor gym equipment visible from your window, you might find it easier to get out there than the effort it might take to visit the gym, which could make you more consistent.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of outdoor exercise and have your own outdoor gym equipment to help you reach your goals, why not get in touch – we’d be happy to create a bespoke solution for any outdoor space you have!

natural wooden playgrounds blog image

We all want our children to do well at school, and to achieve the best grades. To this end, many parents feel they need to turn to extra tutoring support to ensure their child gets the best possible opportunity to improve grades and achieve top marks.

While academic grades are the focus for many and taking part in exercise and physical play may seem like a wasted learning opportunity, there are huge benefits for children in terms of developing their concentration, communication and social skills that could enhance their classroom studies. Whether you provide children with bespoke outdoor playground equipment to keep them active, or a simple bat or ball game, it has been proven that the benefits that exercise and play can bring are very real, and could have a significant impact on a child’s overall attainment.

Exercise and play benefits more than physical health

Exercise and physical activity has far wider benefit than simply preventing child obesity and poor health. It also stimulates brain growth and has a positive impact on cognitive performance.  Children involved in regular exercise and games show improved alertness, stamina and a better ability to concentrate on tasks. Improved motivation, memory, and attention span developed through play could significantly benefit their academic work.

Children who regularly engage in physical games benefit from improved sleep, improved mood and suffer less with stress and anxiety.  Exercise provides a sense of well-being, whether from a run around the park with friends or a game of ball with family or even skipping on their own. Therefore, with regular breaks for exercise and play, children will feel more energetic throughout the rest of the day, and have sharper memory when compared to children who have little or no physical activity opportunities.

Some conditions can benefit more from physical activities than other therapies. ADHD is a condition where children can see enormous benefits from being involved in regular physical exercise.  Partaking in regular physical activity boosts brain serotonin levels, dopamine and norepinephrine and as such works in much the same way as Ritalin and Adderall medications used to treat ADHD.

Communication

Children able to play and exercise with others outside of the academic environment benefit from the chance of relaxed social engagement with a wider freedom of expression. Communication skills gained are of benefit in the academic environment and help increase self-esteem and wellbeing.

Concentration

Experiments have also shown that a child who would ordinarily perform poorly on a task requiring attention and accuracy had more success when the same task was performed after a moderate 20-minute walk.  There is genuine proof that children perform better when they have physical outdoor playtimes at school regularly throughout the day.

Schools ensuring that all children are encouraged to make use of break times, and encourage them to be physically active, find better concentration and attention to school work, especially in comparison to rainy day play indoors.  Schools that provide access to equipment such as balls, nets, hoops outdoor play equipment and encourage outdoor activity, are finding that the children, far from wasting valuable learning time are actually more alert, receptive and retentive when they do return to studies.

Disciplinary benefits

Aerobic activity also gives children a special boost, which alters their brain activity in ways that can enhance self-discipline, build resilience and help children cope with mental and emotional challenges more appropriately.

Social benefits

In addition to this, the social aspects of sport, physical exercise and play are vitally important for children. Taking turns on outdoor play equipment, sharing and playing as part of a team are life skills that children need alongside their academic learning.  Cooperation, respect, appreciation of different abilities and a relaxed way to make friends as well as gain peer support are all skills that will benefit a child within the classroom environment.

The proof is in the studies

If you’re looking to learn more about the science behind play and cognitive benefits, you might be interested to read about a 13-week aerobic exercise program that was shown to improve mathematic skills and increased activity in the bilateral prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which was shown to help with a child’s attention span, planning ability and distraction resistance. Additional studies by Keita Kamijo and colleagues assigned 20 children between seven and nine years of age 70 minutes of daily vigorous physical activity, which, when compared to a group with no physical activity, showed they had improvements in solving tasks that taxed working memory and executive control.

There have been many other studies too; the results of which show that physical activity yields both short and long-term benefits for our children’s achievements in the classroom.  Whether this is walking, a ball game or a chase around the playground, the benefits are clear. Children who have regular exercise and play opportunities have improved cognitive ability, concentration and less behavioural issues, all of which resulted in better academic achievements.

Providing children with a balance of opportunities to take formal education as well as group and solo physical activities will provide them with the best platform for learning, health and happiness.

So next time you are thinking about hiring the services of a maths or literacy tutor, why not consider if a ball game, some new wooden outdoor play equipment, or a run around the playground could be a more rounded solution to children’s overall wellbeing and education.