Health: Child's Play ; Don't Fancy Being Stuck in an Overcrowded Gym This Summer? Then Visit Your Nearest Kids' Playground, Says RACHEL SHABI. and It's Free
Shabi, Rachel, The Independent (London, England)
Playgrounds are hardly an obvious alternative to the gym - unless you can count the calories expended gossiping on park benches as you watch your children play. But for those with a healthy embarrassment threshold, kids' play areas can provide a good alternative workout.
Practically every park has a playground of some sort. Rich neighbourhoods get flash "adventure play areas", while less flush boroughs lay on the more traditional swings/ seesaw/roundabout arrangement.
But whatever your amenities, the advantages of the playground over the gym are obvious. During summer, gyms are overcrowded, overheated and they smell. Playgrounds offer fresh air clear novelty value, and they're peopled with happy little kids - although they do get a bit tearful if you hog the swings.
Best of all, you can get a thorough workout in the playground, conditioning your whole body and achieving a desirable level of fitness - not by doing a million sit-ups, but by doing exercises that replicate the kind of movement your body should be doing in day- to-day life.
I learn this from Jamie Foreman, Health & Fitness magazine's online personal trainer. Perhaps he's had enough of training stressed execs in stuffy health clubs, because he starts running about like a child on Sunny Delight as soon as he sets eyes on the playground at Brockwell Park, South London.
We start with a warm-up. Brisk walking or slow jogging for a few minutes does the trick, elevating the heart rate and warming the muscles in preparation for some stretches. After a these, we do some faster running interspersed with mini-sprints and silly bursts of giant leaping and high-knee running. Jamie says that 20 minutes of anything cardiovascular will do: cycling, skating, blading, footie, frisbee, rounders. Once we're through with this frolicking aerobic session, we hit the playground. Jamie says to do 10- 15 repetitions of each of these exercises to begin with, increasing to two or three sets as you get stronger and more obsessed.
Squat, leaning to one side and use both arms to heave the roundabout towards you. As it starts to go round pull it back towards you. This will work your legs, glutes, abdominals, lower back and shoulder muscles.
Tyre swings are perfect for building strength in your core muscles - those that circle the pelvis like a corset and support the back.
First, lie back on the swing, making sure that your hips and lower back are supported. …