A new type of multi-activity, outdoor exercise space – designed to get people moving by challenging them to think outside the box – is being built in Portsmouth.
Called Playce, the Skills Garden will use a pioneering scientific model for movement with the intention of anyone being able to use the space, from young and old and all skill levels, including those with disabilities and additional needs.
The space will have no separate play areas for different groups but will be an integrated play space for all. The layout encourages fundamental forms of movement, including balancing, climbing, throwing, frolicking and jumping.
The Playce concept was created by the Netherlands-based Athletic Skills Model Company (ASM).
In the Netherlands, ASM has helped create more than 40 Playces and Skill Gardens – most of them in schools, hospitals, sports clubs, and public spaces.
ASM was co-founded by René Wormhoudt, a high-performance coach of the Dutch men's national football team.
“Focusing on just one sport or specialism only increases the risk of injuries, overloading and loss of strength," Wormhoudt said. "It can also lead athletes and novices to lose interest in what they’re doing.
"For healthy and high-quality development, it’s important to have variety in sport and exercise.
“This results in better performance, fewer injuries, increased creativity and more fun.”
The UK's first Playce will be constructed at Lords Court, in Portsmouth's Landport area, after the council approved the use of the site.
The project is a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council (PCC), and ASM. The Portsmouth PLAYCE is being funded by the University of Portsmouth.
Following its launch, the space will be free to use by the public – as well as schools, sports clubs, health centres, sports coaches and informal carers for their training or exercise programmes.
Councillor Matthew Winnington, PCC's cabinet member for health, wellbeing and social care, said: "This novel approach to movement that the Athletic Skills Model brings is really exciting.
"Many Portsmouth residents are not as active as they could be, which is a trend that starts in childhood and continues into adulthood. Both physical health and mental well-being benefit from being active and the importance of this cannot be overstated, given physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK.
"Creating a space that allows the whole family to be active together is a great thing to do and we're investing in the upskilling of some of our local play, youth and teaching staff to ensure they have the skills and confidence to support the athletic model in Landport.
“We're hoping that this is only the start for Portsmouth, and we continue to lead the way, with health and activity.