Adapt your workout to a local park or jungle gym to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and new challenges.
Sunshine, warm breezes, and fresh air—all things you won’t experience with gym-bound workouts. Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, cardiovascular fitness, or just social enjoyment, exercising at your local park can provide the optimal environment to help you achieve your goals—and it’ll keep your workouts fresh and fun.
Playgrounds aren’t just for kids
Adult fitness playgrounds are popping up in cities all over the world. These facilities are permanent pieces of equipment (sometimes hydraulic or pneumatic, sometimes free form) located in parks to provide adults a free, accessible way to exercise. They’re often organized in a circuit to guide you through a workout, so you don’t have to be a fitness expert to use them.
Because they use air or water as a resistance source rather than weights, they are safe and usually target each major muscle in the body so you get a complete workout. If an adult fitness playground is not readily available in your city, you can just as easily use a children’s playground or even something as simple as a park bench to get in a great full-body workout.
While exercising outdoors has many benefits, there are a few cautions. Always bring a BPA-free water bottle with you and hydrate every five to 10 minutes. Exposure to heat, sun, and wind can dehydrate you much faster than when exercising indoors. For more tips, see the sidebar.
One of the health benefits of exercising outdoors is an improvement in mental well-being. Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments has been associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, and positive engagement, together with decreased tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
Like anything, exercising with a friend is more fun and motivating, and it can help you stick to your program. Invite your best buddy to go to the park to play.
Perform three circuit rounds of this outdoor park and playground workout the next time it’s sunny and you feel like working up a good sweat.
Park Bench Step Up and Twist
Muscles worked: gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus medius, obliques
Perform 12 repetitions per leg
- Face park bench with left foot on the bench and right foot on the ground (if a bench is too high, select a lower object).
- Stand up fully on bench on left leg, lifting your right knee up to waist height.
- Slowly lower your right foot back to the ground.
- If you want to increase the difficulty, bring your hands to touch your ears and twist your upper body to the right, across the raised knee.
- Twist back so you’re facing the bench and slowly lower foot to starting position.
- Repeat with other leg.
Alternating Lunge and Push-up on Park Bench
Muscles worked: quadriceps, pectorals, transversus abdominis
Perform 12 repetitions
- Keep a straight spine from knee through shoulders and always keep your weight in your toes.
- Depending on desired difficulty level, line up as if doing a push-up on the back of the bench or the seat.
- Without allowing your bum to rise, bring your right leg forward so that your toe touches down underneath your right hip.
- Bring your chest down toward the bench for a push-up.
- Push yourself away from the bench, at the same time stepping back with your right leg.
- As soon as your right foot touches down, bring your left leg forward, absorbing the impact with arms and feet as you fall back toward the bench.
Playground Hip Lift and Body Weight Row
Muscles worked: homboids, gluteals, hamstrings, latissimus dorsi
Perform 12 repetitions
- Find a horizontal bar of about belly button height.
- Sit on the ground in a squatting position with your hips directly beneath you and tuck your heels in as close to your backside as possible with feet hip-width apart.
- Hold the bar with your palms up, shoulder-width apart.
- Lean back throughout the exercise and keep your heels on the ground as you lift your hips up to the sky as high as possible.
- When hips are at their peak, pull your upper body toward the bar while keeping your elbows as close to your sides as possible.
- Touch the bottom of your chest to the bar each time, then slowly lower your body to the ground.
Muscles worked: gluteals, hamstrings, abdominals, quadriceps
Perform 15 repetitions
- Find a slight downward slope or, if you’re feeling strong and are flexible, flat ground (the greater the slope, the easier it is).
- Lie flat on the ground, feet pointed down the slope, hands and arms resting palms down beside your body.
- With a slight knee bend, lift your legs as far over your chest as possible. You should feel like you’re tilting your pelvis back toward your chest at the same time.
- Slowly lower your legs, but just before they get to the ground, tuck your heels in as close to your backside as possible and plant them, hip width, on the ground with toes facing forward.
- When your feet touch the ground, sit up, shifting your weight to your feet.
- Use the forward momentum to stand up fully, pushing through your heels and keeping your knees hip-width apart.
- Sit back down, lowering your upper body before straightening out your legs to starting position.
Bent Leg, Body Weight Playground Skull Crushers
Muscles worked: triceps, quadriceps, transversus abdominis, deltoids
Perform 12 repetitions
- Find a bar roughly belly button height and stand facing it about 3 to 4 ft (1 to 1.2 m) away.
- Grip the bar, palms down, roughly 6 in (15 cm) apart.
- Crouch down with your weight in your toes, so that if you were to rock forward, your forehead would hit the bar.
- Your body should be in an almost seated position (like in a chair), with your spine straight and your arms straight out in front of you.
- Without changing your body shape, allow your forehead to fall slowly toward the bar, being careful to keep your elbows roughly 6 in (15 cm) apart and letting your elbows swing underneath the bar.
- Focusing on your arms, straighten them out to starting position while pushing your body away from the bar, again being mindful of elbow width.