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How to Use Your Community's Playground as an Outdoor Gym

illustration of various playground equipment on white background

Ready to shake up your home workout routine? A playground workout may be for you. 

Check out your local park or playground and take advantage of all it has to offer. A community playground not only provides free facilities and tools you might not have at home, but it also presents an opportunity to meet a community of neighborhood runners or workout buddies who are local to you. Here are six of our favorite full-body playground exercises and workouts to try. 

Don't neglect the track.

One particularly nice thing about many school and community playgrounds is the presence of a pre-measured turf or paved track to run on. If you're a runner or jogger who likes to monitor your distances and times, having a track as a guide may motivate you to hit your fitness goals more than a run through your neighborhood. 

Want to learn how to run? Here's how to start running when you aren't a runner

Hit up the monkey bars (obviously).

Parks and playgrounds tend to bring out your inner kid, so why not embrace it? Many community park equipment pieces are designed with bodyweight workouts in mind—specifically, the monkey bars. Believe it or not, monkey bars can provide a better bodyweight workout than other high-end equipment. This list details the muscle groups a monkey bar workout can improve, so go out and get swinging, hanging, and pulling up.

Use a park bench for elevated pushups or adjusted planks.

Adding elevation to your core workouts can improve muscle strength and coordination. Using a balance beam or other playground equivalent can take your workout routine to new heights (even if those new heights are a mere 12 inches off the ground). For those who prefer modified workouts, having something to support your feet or shoulders can make a difference.

A raised platform can also benefit your cardio routine; block jumps, and rear-foot elevated lunges will get your heart pumping as fast as sprint drills.

woman doing tricep dips at playground

Swing on the swing set (and then use it for a core workout).

Simply moving your body can significantly impact you when you're just getting back into the swing of things (pun intended). Take a walk to your local park and spend time on the swings to familiarize yourself with the park equipment. Aim to make the trip once or twice a week so that the park will feel more welcoming when you decide to branch out to different workouts or equipment.  

Once you know the lay of the land, you can graduate to using a swing set for adjusted planks, swinging knee tucks, elevated pushups, and many more standard core exercises. 

Looking for more fun exercises? Check out these non-traditional exercises that put the fun in fitness! 

Climb the slide for an upper and lower body burn. 

Believe it or not, you can use the slide for an excellent playground workout. Firmly grab each side of the slide at the bottom and slowly start climbing to the top. Although it may seem easy, this exercise will work your biceps, shoulders, quads, and hamstrings and boost your agility.

After you finish your upper body workout, move on to your lower body. Here's how: 

  • At the bottom of the slide, begin by balancing one foot. 
  • Place your hands on your hips, bend your front leg until the knee is at a 90-degree angle (don't let your knee extend past your toes), slowly straighten your leg, and then slowly return to the starting position. 
  • Do 10-12 reps three times. 

Work on your footwork by using the ladder.

If you can find a ladder on the playground, now's your chance to take your workouts to a new level. The ladder's evenly spaced rungs encourage you to perform rapid and precise foot movements and make it an ideal tool for enhancing coordination. 

Get creative with the exercises by moving side-to-side on the ladder or incorporating high knees or fast feet exercises by lifting your knees high and staying light on your toes.  

How to Recover from these Playground Exercises 

Consistency and patience are vital in improving your agility, footwork, mobility, and overall strength. The next time you take the kids outside to play, get sweating with our six fitness playground exercises and tackle a full-body workout without going to the gym! Once you feel comfortable with your form, you can incorporate these non-traditional exercises to create a regular workout routine. And remember to get your best night's sleep to recover your muscles for the next day's workout. Happy exercising!