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SEN Children using Fresh air Fitness Equipment

How outdoor exercise can benefit children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

The benefits of exercise and outdoor learning for children and young people are well documented. But for pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN), leaving the classroom behind and heading outside can be particularly beneficial in helping to foster independence.

children using outdoor gym equipment

9th May 2023

One London primary school, where nearly one in three pupils has SEN, told the Guardian how al fresco experiences helped to relieve stress and anxiety, develop social skills, boost creativity and encourage learning. 

Meanwhile, Andrew Colley, an academic at the University of East London’s Cass School of Education, told the same paper: “Giving SEN students that feeling of space, and the sensory stimulation that comes with being outdoors, is absolutely vital.” 

And because leaving four walls behind means adapting to potentially unpredictable weather, that’s another great challenge, according to charity the Calvert Trust. Those with autism, for example, must learn to be flexible in terms of routine and timescales. Heading into the fresh air is an excellent way of doing this. 

Plan Your Outside Space

But you need to plan how to structure your outdoor space including, for example, combining active with quieter zones. Equally, you should make it a different, complementary experience to what goes on indoors. If possible, involve children in the design of their al fresco areas – they will love this. 

And, of course, every piece of outdoor equipment should be appropriate and fun to use for all concerned. 

Here are some of the other benefits to creating facilities under the sky for SEN pupils:  

1. Social benefits, plus mental health and wellbeing 

Outdoor activities help alleviate depression, stress and anxiety in children and young people. And if you make equipment accessible to all, no one feels excluded and this can boost self-esteem while helping to reduce problems such as bullying and boosting interaction between children of all abilities, as they build resilience and develop self-confidence.

An open-air gym, for example, can help youngsters let off steam, regain their focus and resettle. The change of environment from being confined within four walls can make a huge difference. 

2. Physical and sensory benefits

Being outside can stimulate the senses and help develop motor skills as well as mobility and coordination. 

A safe environment in which kids can balance, and can move across different levels and surfaces, can be hugely beneficial. Equally, for those with autism and other sensory sensitivities, it can be very positive to be away from artificial light and noisy classrooms. 

Finally, of course, for all children, exercising outside is a key part of keeping fit and healthy while combatting obesity. 


Outdoor Gyms for Special Educational Needs Schools

At Fresh Air Fitness, we can help with fully inclusive outdoor gym equipment for children with Special Educational Needs, whether you run a special or mainstream school. And we’ve been doing this for 10 years. So we’ve seen the benefits first-hand, have a read of our success stories

Talk to us today about how our outdoor gym equipment can benefit your place of learning. We’ll be with you every step of the way, from site inspection through to design, production, installation and aftercare. 

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