Breathe some fresh air into your fitness routine that’s not only free but fun as well
While playgrounds are usually designed for children under 12, it doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can enjoy them. Next time you’re looking for a fun way to get active outdoors, head on over to your local park and try these exercises for a total body workout.
Park Bench Push-Ups
(Chest, shoulders, triceps, core)
Place your hands approximately shoulder width apart on the back of a park bench (or the seat of the bench for an added challenge). Take several steps back until your body forms a diagonal line. Lower your body towards the bench, without letting your hips drop. Push your body back up to the starting position.
Options: For a more advanced version, try a decline push-up by placing your feet on the playground stairs and your hands on the ground.
(Back, shoulders, biceps)
Stand facing a swing and, with your arms straight out from your chest, grip the chains. Step back to create tension in the chains, plant your feet and lean back to a 45-degree angle. Pull your body towards the swing, squeezing your shoulder blades, bending your elbows and pulling with your arms. Lower yourself back into the starting position.
Options: Use the jungle gym to perform a pull-up by resting your heels on the ground while your body is on an angle and pulling your upper body towards the bar. Alternate heights to increase the intensity.
Standing with your back to a slide, place one foot on the bottom of the slide and one foot in front of you. Bend your knees to lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push through your heel to raise yourself back up.
Options: Try facing the slide to switch it up or, for an advance move, challenge your balance by using the swings instead of the slide.
Repeat 12x each leg
Lateral Leg Lift
(Hip abductors, quadriceps)
Standing with your right side facing the stairs or slide, step up with your right leg while raising your left leg out to the side. Return your left leg to its starting position and step down.
Options: Alternate between lifting your leg back behind you, out on a diagonal, to the side and in front of you to engage more lower body muscles.
Repeat 15x each leg
Swing Knee Tuck
(Core stability, abdominals, lower back)
Starting in a plank position, with your legs elevated and the tops of your feet resting on a swing, bring your knees and the swing towards your chest. Focus on using your glutes and keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Slowly return to the plank position.
Options: Make it more challenging by adding a push-up or a pike before beginning each tuck.
Swing Criss Cross
(Core stability, abdominals)
While sitting stationary on a swing, tighten your abdominals, lean back slightly and extend your legs out in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left, then your left leg over your right, using a scissor motion.
Options: Start swinging for an added challenge to your core strength.
Repeat: 10x each leg
Get ready to rule the playground by beginning every workout with a warm up. Start by power walking or jogging several laps around the park that incorporate walking lunges, high knees, arm circles and jumping jacks.
Perform the exercises in a circuit – completing one after the other without rest in between – to keep your heart rate up while simultaneously strength training. Rest for at least one minute after completing the circuit once and repeat two to three times depending on your fitness level. A bonus to these bodyweight exercises is they can be done anywhere and anytime!
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your workout when you’re at the park. Children seem to glide through the air with ease but monkey bars are a challenging workout on their own that engages many upper body muscles. Try scaling the jungle gym for total body conditioning that just might conquer a fear of heights at the same time. Use the swing as a great alternative to traditional suspension trainers. If you’re looking for even more variety, turn the playground into your own personal obstacle course.
With monkey bars, swings, benches and stairs, a park mimics much of the traditional equipment found in a gym without the need for dumbbells or being indoors. Let yourself feel young again and have some fun while getting fit.
Before beginning any exercise program, please consult with your physician or health care professional.