Build muscle at the playground

By Elaine Munn

Parents at the parkSpending time outdoors improves moods and gives the body a chance to soak up some Vitamin D. Spring’s moderate temperatures and increasing daylight hours make it the perfect season to get outdoors. And if there’s a playground within jogging distance of your house, you have access to free equipment for a complete workout while enjoying play time with your kids.

Warm up by walking, jogging or biking to the playground. If you just want to have fun with the kids, go “freestyle.” Pumping arms and legs on swings, climbing on jungle gyms, swinging from monkey bars and sliding down the fireman’s pole will stretch and tone muscles and burn calories. You won’t know you had a workout until you wake up the next morning!

If this seems like too much fun and not enough work, here are some strength training ideas using your own body weight, gravity and playground equipment.

Benches. Bench seats can be used for pushups by placing hands on the seat and feet on the ground. Make it more challenging by reversing position – hands on the ground, feet on the seat. Seats can also be used for tricep dips and step-ups.

Monkey bars. Get an upper body workout by using the bars for chin-ups, pull-ups, reverse pushups and hanging crunches. Modified versions of these exercises can be done using lower bars that allow the feet to reach the ground.

Swings. Use the swing seats for support while doing planks and other balancing and stability exercises to strengthen the core.

Steps. Strengthen legs with calf-raises, standing jumps, lunges and step-ups.

Bring the kids! According to the Center for Disease Control, kids should be active at least 60 minutes daily with moderate or vigorous activity.

Some playgrounds have running tracks, baseball fields, soccer nets and basketball hoops. Get a workout by chasing a ball out to center field, practicing jump shots or kicking a soccer ball.

This is a great opportunity to encourage your kids to leave the house and have fun while being active, and you’ll create some happy family memories.

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