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Fall fitness: Exercise at the park

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Hit the park to get fit

The sweltering days of summer have gone and the crisp, cool climate of autumn is in the air. Though fall means back to school, chauffeuring kids to and from, and a jam-packed family schedule, fall also lends itself to outdoor activities and opportunities for busy moms to fit fitness into their day. Instead of fretting over a childcare opening at the gym, take your kids to the nearest park and tackle the following outdoor workout while your kids romp around the playground.

Woman hanging on swing set

Fitness can happen anywhere

Health clubs certainly make exercise enticing; you have rows of cardio and strength equipment, big screen TVs, and the entertainment of people watching as you sweat through your workout. Home workouts also have appeal, especially for time-crunched moms who may only have 20 minutes to fit in a fitness DVD while the kids are taking a nap. But what about the moms who crave fresh air and sunshine, want to spend quality time with their kids, and stay in shape?

We asked Salt Lake City fitness expert Gregory Florez, spokesperson for American Council on Exercise (ACE) and CEO of FitAdvisor.com, to give us a fast and effective workout for moms who routinely take their kids to the park. The health and fitness coach finds value in fitness facilities and home-based workouts but says playing in the park is a fun way for moms to stay fit.

"Gyms and home equipment have their place and are certainly becoming more advanced constantly; they are not, however, the only way to increase your fitness level," Florez explains. "Exercising in a park setting is fun, breaks the monotony of the gym, and provides a much needed boost of variety to traditional workouts."

Take a cue from your kids

Instead of sitting on the park bench idly watching your kids as they scale playground equipment and expend their little kid energy, follow them around. You'll be surprised at the muscles you work as you climb the slide ladder, crawl through tunnels, swing from the monkey bars, and jump from platform to sand. This can be especially appealing if traditional workouts aren't your thing.

Florez suggests loosening up and being a kid again because kids can even teach fitness professionals a thing or two about exercise. "Watching the way [kids] creatively use equipment gave me an entirely different perspective on core fitness and using the entire body with some simple movements," he says. "These children were playing, and the fitness benefit was simply an outcome of play."

Outdoor workouts benefit both mind and body

Not only does hitting the park to exercise give you the opportunity to fit a workout into your day, it also benefits your mental health. "Exercising in the park or playground provides benefits both psychologically and physiologically," Florez says. "Getting outside in the fresh air and natural light provides a meaningful motivational boost to often stale workouts."

And if you're wondering if working out at the park instead of the gym is really going to get you in shape, Florez adds, "There are many [park-based] exercises that are at least as functional as the most advanced fitness equipment, and they actually replicate many movements that we use in everyday life."

Next page: Exercises to do at the park

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