There’s no doubt, you’ll be spending more time outdoors this summer with your children. Rather than sitting on the grass watching them having fun at the playground, join in and get a total body workout at the same time!
Recently, I visited a small local playground and put the equipment to the test. I found some great ways to firm up and spent a fun afternoon with my girls.
Before you begin, warm up your body with a quick game of tag, then give your major muscle groups a good stretch and don’t forget to bring along a big bottle of water.
Here are some fun ways you can use playground equipment to strength train and get a good cardiovascular workout in the fresh air:
- Monkey Bars: There are many ways to utilize a set of monkey bars or any kind of metal bar at the playground. They can be used for chin-ups, push ups and for what monkey bars are intended for, swinging from rung to rung.
- Ladders: There are many styles of ladders at the playground, most of which are made from materials such as rope or metal. Climb up and down a few times and see if you can increase your speed each time. Some play equipment has a wide net made from rope where you can skip a few holes, making it a tougher workout for your legs as you pull yourself up.
- Fireman’s Pole: Almost every play area has one of these. It may have been a while since you’ve slid down one, but remember, if you can’t hold yourself on, you don’t have far to go before you reach the ground. Sliding down a fireman’s pole is a great workout for your entire body, especially your abdominal muscles and biceps. Practice going down slower each time, stopping yourself every few inches so your muscles work harder.
- Swing: When we were kids, we weren’t aware of what muscles were and their function, we just ran and played. Pumping yourself higher and higher on a swing will snap your abs into action in no time, not to mention your upper thighs as you stretch your legs back and forth and your arms as you pull forward and push back. Swinging is so much fun, you won’t even notice how hard your body is working, until the next day, that is! Pushing your child on the swing is a great upper body workout too; offer to push a few kids at a time so you’re constantly pushing and moving from one to the other.
- Seesaw: If you’re visiting the park with a friend, sit at opposite ends of the seesaw with your kids on your laps and send each other up and down. If this isn’t the greatest workout for your thighs, I don’t know what is.
- Tires: Pretend you’re a football player and quickly step through a pattern of tires on the ground. Try to increase your speed each time or jump through slowly, bending your weight-bearing leg and leaping through for a more cardiovascular workout.
- Slide: Instead of sliding down, try climbing up! Climbing up a slippery slide is a great workout for the backs of your legs and your calf muscles. The higher the slide, the better. To recover, go down the regular way.
- Merry Go Round: Load up the kids and give them a spin. Running in a circle beside a heavy merry go round gives your legs a great workout and pushing it as it goes by is an effective upper body workout as well. Remember to spin in the opposite direction to exercise the other side of your body as well.
- Play shark, wolf, tag or other chasing games for quick bursts of cardio. Studies show that short bursts of exercise are the best way to burn fat. Running on uneven surfaces such as gravel or sand causes your muscles to work harder as you run.
- Bring Toys: Take along a ball, Frisbee or a softball and bat to play with to keep you moving after you’ve exhausted all the play equipment. Invite other children to join in and make friends with yours; you might meet people from your neighborhood that you’re not acquainted with yet.
After you return home exhausted, draw yourself a nice hot bath with plenty of Epsom salts to relax your tired muscles. Look back on your fun afternoon with your children and plan to do it again soon!