Pupils get off the sofa and in the gym

A north Suffolk school has unveiled its latest weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.

A north Suffolk school yesterday unveiled its latest weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.

The new gym at Benjamin Britten High School in Lowestoft is aimed at getting more kids off the sofa and onto the treadmill, amid growing concerns about the health issues facing overweight youngsters.

The centre, which includes more than 50 pieces of high tech fitness equipment including exercise bikes, cross trainers, steppers and rowing machines, was the brainchild of headteacher Trevor Osborne, who was determined to get his students into shape.

And yesterday, less than a month since it was introduced to the timetable, Mr Osborne described how the new gym had transformed PE lessons and his students' attitudes to fitness.

He said: “There is a lot of research that shows where kids get regular exercise, and are challenging themselves physically, they also improve their self-esteem.

In short a child that is fit will be more confident and in turn will perform better in the classroom, and that is what we are seeing here.

Most Read

“The students absolutely love it, it's almost a cool way to get fit, so instead of students trying to get out of PE they are actually looking forward to their lessons in the gym.

“They also get free access at lunchtimes, and cut price membership if they want to use it other times, so a lot of students are now using it in their free time as well.”

The gym was made possible after Mr Osborne met with local fitness company Body Wellness, joining forces to provide a gym that could be used both by students and the wider community.

The partnership works with the school providing the building, while Body Wellness provide the equipment and expertise, with public access offered out of school hours.

Andy George, assistant headteacher and PE teacher, added that the gym helped encourage less-able youngsters.

He said: “Often when you get cross-country or rugby, children will dread being outperformed, or will try and hide away during the lessons.

“But in the gym environment, it's comfortable, there's TV, there's music and each student has an individual programme tailored for them. So what we are seeing is kids who until now haven't enjoyed PE really excelling themselves. From a PE point of view it is fantastic to have a facility like this.”

In the last three weeks, more than 800 students have received a gym induction, and many already have personal programmes aimed at raising their fitness levels.

The move has been combined with a major overhaul of the schools canteen with has seen crisps, sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks replaced with salads, fresh fruit, and vegetables.

Yesterday, assistant headteacher, Des Reynolds, said the shift towards healthier living had also increased attendance and improved student behaviour.

He said: “The schools figures for unauthorised absence have rapidly decreased over the last few years, and it is improving positive behaviour. But it is not just the gym or healthy eating it is about having a whole healthy lifestyle.”

An open day for prospective students and parents will be held at Benjamin Britten High School on Wednesday October 18 at 7.30pm.