A new era in the playground.[/caption] The platinum-sized outdoor gyms are part of a new £300,000 contract commissioned by the South Eastern Education and Library Board which will be rolled out to Down High School, Saintfield High School in Down District and Regent House (Newtownards), Glenlola Collegiate (Bangor), and Lisnagarvey High School and Fort Hill College in Lisburn in the coming months. This follows an initial £200,000 contract secured in December 2012 for outdoor gyms within five secondary schools which included the High School in Ballynahinch. Installed by Ballynahinch-based company Garden Escapes, in partnership with the Great Outdoor Gym Company (Ireland), the gyms are the first to be located in schools and the largest outdoor gyms in the country, offering pupils of all physical abilities the opportunity to further learn and practice PE outdoors, before, during and after school. Rowallene Councillor William Dick, Chairman of the Board of Governors at Saintfield High School, was delighted with the announcement. He said: “This development has to be whole-heartedly welcomed. There has been so much in the news recently about obesity in children and the statistics around this are alarming. [caption id="attachment_37838" align="alignright" width="350"] Ex Ireland and Ulster rugby player Andy Ward puts Ballynahinch High School pupils Megan Tate and Hannah-Jane Hitchins through their paces at the new outdoor gym. (Photo by Brian Morrison.)[/caption] “Anything that can help to make children more active, healthier and fitter has to be encouraged and I am sure this will have direct benefits to their health as well as their education.” Mr Roger Sayers, Head of Property and Planning Services at the SEELB, said: “We are delighted to be able to enable a further six schools to reap the benefits of an outdoor gym facility – we have had nothing but positive feedback from each of the schools so far. “We are committed to raising the standards of learning and levels of achievement of the young people in our area and what we have here is an innovative and fun way in which pupils of all ages can benefit from a wide range of physical activities.” Richard Stuart, Managing Director of Garden Escapes and TGO Ireland, said: “We are thrilled with today’s announcement. “Never before has there been such a focus on health and well-being with the interest in outdoor exercise being at an all-time high – especially in children and young adults. “Physical inactivity causes more deaths than obesity – only smoking, high blood pressure and high blood glucose are responsible for greater mortality. The recent study by medical journal The Lancet claimed that sedentary lifestyles and a lack of physical exercise are responsible for 5.3 million deaths – just as many as smoking – throughout the world. “It is well documented that the problem starts in childhood, when habits are laid down that become life-long. The South Eastern Education and Library Board is to be commended for tackling this problem head on, and we look forward to working with the children in each of the schools alongside local sporting personalities to help show them how to use the machines on a regular basis and integrate physical activity into their school day.” All of the gym facilities are located conveniently within the school’s grounds and provide a great workout, surrounded by fresh air and doesn’t cost a penny to use. For more information about installing an outdoor gym in a school or a green space near you, please contact: Richard at Garden Escapes, 028 97564477 or visit www.tgoireland.com . You can also keep up to date on facebook.com/TGO.ireland and Tweet @TGOireland.