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8 fun, low-cost summer workouts
Summer is a great time to get outside and play. Keep your whole family fit, from toddlers to grandparents, with these fun outdoor activities.
Summertime: It’s the perfect season to be active in the outdoors with your family. You already know that exercise is good for you. But research shows that exercising outdoors can be even better than doing the same workout inside.1 And exercise can help lower your blood pressure, relieve stress and even improve your thinking skills.2
Unfortunately, lots of us get stuck in the house. The average kid spends more than 7 hours a day glued to a screen.3 And adults aren’t doing much better. A recent survey found that a third of all Americans take part in outdoor activities fewer than once a month. That means they’re missing out on some good exercise (and other great health benefits).4,5
Not only does playtime help kids get stronger and healthier, playing as a family is a great way to strengthen your connection with one another. When you have fun together, you give your child the chance to learn new things. And you get to see the world from their point of view. The experience helps your children develop emotional and social skills that can enhance their mental health for years to come.6
So, grab the kids (and the sunscreen) and head to the great outdoors. There are lots of easy ways to be more active. Try these fun outings and games the whole family will enjoy.
Explore the neighborhood (or region) on your bikes
Cycling is an excellent exercise for building fitness.7 It’s fun for kids and adults alike. Take a family ride around the neighborhood after dinner. Or find a nearby bike trail to explore. Get your kids involved by having them take turns picking the route. Important safety tip: Make sure everyone wears a bike helmet. Helmets protect kids and adults from brain injuries.
Visit the zoo
You may not think of the zoo as an opportunity to exercise. But you’ll be surprised by how many steps your family can rack up as you explore the reptile house, monkey habitat and more. “You don’t realize how much you’re walking, because you’re paying attention to other things,” says Liz Davis. She’s an exercise physiologist and trainer in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s also fun for kids to see and learn about different animals. Aim to visit every animal and exhibit at the zoo. Can’t do it in one trip? Go back again and continue your quest. Get the kids involved too. Download a zoo map to plan out your visits.
Hit the playground
Outdoor obstacle courses inspired by reality competition shows like American Ninja Warrior are popping up in parks around the country, says Davis. Some also have playgrounds nearby for younger kids.
If you’re lucky enough to have one of these obstacle courses in your area, bring the family. Take turns and see who can conquer it the fastest. Or set up your own obstacle course right in your own backyard. Make it a challenge: The kids against the parents. The winner gets ice cream.
Take family fitness classes
Many cities and towns offer free or low-cost outdoor family fitness classes in local parks. Check your town’s official website and social media pages to see what’s available. Your local YMCA or YWCA are good places to find affordable classes. Be sure you also learn about age requirements, in case some classes aren’t appropriate for very young kids.
See what other activities you can do at the park, and make a day of it. For example, bring swimsuits for the kids if there’s a sprinkler playground. Or explore a hiking trail. And pack some water and snacks or a picnic lunch.
Throw a barbecue with games
Nothing says summer like a barbecue in your backyard or at the park. But be sure to add some fun and active games to the menu. Pick family-friendly games that will make you break a sweat. Some great options: beanbag toss, Frisbee, volleyball, badminton and kickball.
Go to the beach or outdoor pool
Swimming is easy on your joints. And it’s a great aerobic workout for kids and parents. Challenge your kids to finish a lap faster than you. Or play fun water games such as pool tag, water volleyball, diving through rings and swimming-pool basketball.
If your kids (or you) don’t know how to swim, look into low-cost swimming lessons at your local YMCA or YWCA. Learning to swim is an important life skill that can help prevent drowning.8
Grab a pickleball paddle and get into the country’s fastest-growing sport.9 Pickleball is fun and easy to learn. It’s a cross between tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton. Kids, adults and even grandparents can play together. And all you need to get started is a few paddles and a ball.
One study showed that adults who played pickleball for an hour three days a week lowered their blood pressure and boosted their heart fitness.10 There’s probably a game starting up in your neighborhood. Check with your local YMCA, YWCA or plug in your zip code on the USA Pickleball website to find out where to play near you.
Do a circuit challenge
Circuit training makes fitness more fun by mixing up a few different exercises in one routine. It targets different muscle groups, and you can do a circuit in as little as 10 minutes. Circuit training can build strength, improve heart health and jump-start weight loss.11
Plus, it’s a blast for the whole family. You can do circuit training in a driveway, park or backyard. Here’s a sample circuit, designed by Vanessa Mandell. She’s a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles. Do each exercise for 30 to 45 seconds. Then switch stations. Repeat for two or three rounds.
- Crab walk: Bend your knees slightly and step sideways like a crab. Take five slow, low steps to your right, and then five steps to your left. Repeat until time is up.
- High knees: Stand up. Then bring each knee up to hip level, switching from one leg to the other. Do as many as you can.
- Core twist: Sit on the ground with your knees bent in front of you. Then lean back a little to feel your core (the middle of your body) engage. Put your hands together in front of you and twist to move them back and forth between your left hip and your right hip.
- Squat and reach: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down as far as you’re comfortable. Then, stand and reach one arm overhead as though you’re picking an apple from a tree. Squat down again. As you stand up, reach overhead with your other hand.
- Mountain climbers: Get down on all fours and place your hands right beneath your shoulders. Then straighten your legs to lift your knees off the floor. Try to keep your body in a straight line. Now bring your knees forward, one at a time, as if you’re climbing. The faster you go, the harder it is.
- Scientific Reports. Exercising is good for the brain but exercising outside is potentially better. Published January 2023. Accesssed May 22, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of physical activity. Last updated June 16 , 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and children. N.d. Accessed June 16, 2023.
- Outdoor Foundation. 2022 outdoor participation trends report. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- National Institutes of Health. Outdoor fitness routine. Last reviewed May 12, 2022. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Playing outside: Why it’s important for kids. Last updated April 19, 2023. Accessed June 16, 2023.
- International Sports Sciences Association. Summer activities for fitness, fun, and sticking to your goals. June 5, 2021. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Swim lessons: When to start and what parents should know. Last updated March 15, 2019. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- Sports and Fitness Industry Association. 2023 Topline Participation Report. February 2023. Accessed June 1, 2023.
- International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology. The acute and chronic physiological responses to pickleball in middle-aged and older adults. Published June 2018. Accessed May 22, 2023.
- National Academy of Sports Medicine. The benefits of circuit training. Accessed May 22, 2023.
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Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine.
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