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Planning the perfect outdoor gym for your schools’ playground

The Fresh Air Fitness Guide on how to design the perfect outdoor gym for your primary school playground to help keep your students active.

primary school playground planning

9th November 2023

According to government figures, nearly 33,000 houses were completed in the year to 31 March 2023, while almost 36,500 began building on-site during the same period, under schemes from Homes England. 

New houses always mean schools are needed in the fresh communities they create, and in June 2020, the government launched its School Rebuilding Programme, set to run for 10 years and build or reconstruct 500 academic institutions at a rate of 50 a year. 

All new schools require considerable planning, not just for the inside of the buildings, from dining halls to libraries and classrooms, but outside as well, including how pupils will meet UK minimum government guidelines for physical activity. 

These state that all children and young people should engage in moderate-to-vigorous activity for at least one hour and up to several hours daily. More vigorous activities, including those which strengthen the bone and muscles, should be incorporated at least three days a week.


Planning your outdoor gym

An outdoor gym is a fantastic way to ensure school pupils are as active as they should be. But there are a number of key considerations with any potential school outdoor gym project if it is to meet your needs.  We have created a full downloadable planning guide here, but here are the key things you should consider: 

1. What are your aims and objectives? 

As with any project it’s good to have some goals for your outdoor gym and to be clear on its purpose. Think about who will be using your outdoor equipment and when, and whether you need wheelchair accessibility. 

2. Do you have enough room? 

Outdoor gyms can actually fit into smaller spaces than you may have realised. As a rough guide, allow 10 square metres for each piece of equipment, and around 1.5m of space between each one for safe use. This should all be shown in the plans for your site.

When it comes to location, think about where you can place your gym so children can easily access the equipment, and where supervising them will be most manageable. 

3. Positioning

The gym can be positioned in various ways. Think about whether you would like a linear layout (e.g. along the edge of a playing field) or grouped together in a designated gym zone. If you choose a number of single user pieces, you may like to have them facing each other to make the gym more sociable.  

4. Surfacing 

You can install your outdoor gym into a variety of different surfacing types including, grass, tarmac, wet pour, rubber mulch and concrete. If the area is prone to flooding, groundworks could resolve this, keeping the gym useable all year round. Bear in mind that the ground needs to be reasonably flat and even if you are fitting an outdoor gym on it. 


What benefits do you want the gym to bring your pupils?

This goes back to understanding your aims. Do you want pupils to develop strength, flexibility, balance and coordination or enjoy a good cardio-based workout? Most schools opt for a solution that covers the breadth of physical benefits. Our packages have been carefully selected to offer this variety too.  

Another decision is whether to have single or multi user equipment or a combination of both. Equipment like our Children’s Fitness Rig is a more sociable and inclusive option, with kids better able to encourage each other. 

Funding for your school’s outdoor gym?

Another consideration is whether funding is a requirement.  There are a number of funding possibilities available including applying for specific grants or fundraising via your PTA. For further information on this, why not take a look out our in-depth funding guide, or speak to our team today.

Staff support

Once your gym is in place, how will you support the teachers who will be supervising the children using it? 

At Fresh Air Fitness, we supply user guides, PE lesson plans, instructional animations for children and more for swift, safe, effective and seamless use of gym equipment as soon after installation as possible. 

How and when will the outdoor gym be used?

The gym can be used in many different ways and times through the school day, not just for PE leassons. After-school clubs, breaks and lunchtimes, sports days and so on. The gym also provides a perfect place to warm-up ahead of a number of other activities. For SEN pupils, the children can take sensory breaks for fresh air and exercise, helping to refocus and find composure. 

How we can help

At Fresh Air Fitness, we’ve fitted outdoor gym equipment into more than 1,000 primary school settings and have over 15 years’ experience in this sector. Download our Outdoor Gym Planner for more guidance to lean more. We exceed industry safety standards and offer outstanding value plus warranties of up to 25 years. 

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