During the middle of the day, when most of the kids are in school, there are often groups of tough-looking guys (and sometimes women, too) at the local playgrounds. In their sweatpants and muscle shirts, with handkerchiefs on their heads, they can look pretty intimidating. When I first noticed them hanging around, I wondered what on earth they were doing there — right up until I saw them mount the bars and do a set of chin-ups.
Oh. Of course. Just getting their workout in. Brilliant.
And then I wondered why on earth more people don’t take advantage of the free gym facilities offered by public playgrounds. After all, playgrounds provide chin-up bars, steps for calf raises or power squats, slides for serious sit-ups, and swings for stability-challenging push-ups.
So with all that and a place for the kids to play while you’re getting your workout in, why don’t more people use playgrounds for exercise?
Probably because they don’t think of it. I mean, playgrounds are for kids, right? We go there to watch them play and to make sure they’re safe. But what if parks and playgrounds added signs that encouraged physical fitness? According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people would – wait for it – exercise more! They just needed a tiny little nudge to help them realize that it’s okay to work out in the park. And when they do, not only do they reap the benefits, but they also save money on gym memberships and get to spend some time in the great outdoors. Win-win-win.
Not only have I seen people taking advantage of those public spaces to get in their workouts, but I’ve done it myself. At one of my neighborhood parks, there’s a sign letting people know that the path around the park is about 1/4 mile. And you better believe I’ve done some speedwork there, just knowing that it was okay and even encouraged to run around it as fast as I could. Another park has signs suggesting possible fitness-related uses for bars and other playground pieces. And I don’t know about you, but next time I take my kids to the playground, I’m going to see if I can’t use it to my advantage — maybe join my 6-year-old for a swinging contest on the monkey bars (as long as they’re not crowded with other kids). After all, why should the kids be the ones to have all the fun?