Every time I read one of those “you-can-do-these-moves-anywhere” fitness articles, I roll my eyes.
My inner dialogue generally starts rattling off reasons why I can’t actually exercise “anywhere.”
1. I have to take care of my young son.
2. I don’t have time.
3. I’ll look like a fool.
I can drag that list out for hours — days even — but you get the idea.
For some reason, I have prescribed to the idea that exercise must fit into a certain specified time block. As if any exercise outside of the traditional hour workout is not exercise and does not count. Of course, now that I’ve said that aloud I realize how incredibly misguided my attitude has been. The simple fact of the matter is I really can exercise anywhere — and should — but not just for my sake.
Jeff Thigpen, wellness coach and children’s Make a Move class instructor at the Georgia Mountains YMCA in Gainesville, said when parents make healthy choices in front of their children, the kids learn by example.
“Whether it be games or exercise, the best way to get children active is for you to do it yourself with the child,” Thigpen said. “Because at the end of the day, children do as we do not as we say. When activity is more like a game, children are much more apt to exercise. When we make it not so much something we have to do but something that’s fun to do, they’re more likely to get into it. Which makes it a little more hard on adults because you have to be more creative. But in the end it’s worth it because children actually do get into it more.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight preschoolers in the United States are considered obese. Obese preschoolers are five times as likely as their normal-weight peers to be overweight or obese as adults.
My son is at a healthy weight for his age, but it still seems prudent to start establishing healthy habits early in life since being overweight or obese puts a person at risk for a lifetime of health problems.
So instead of glossing over those do-anywhere exercise routines, I sought them out online. Turns out there are a ton of suggestions for playground workouts.
Playgrounds are ideal places to exercise for children and adults. We’re lucky enough to have one in walking distance from our house, so I was able to sneak in some great cardiovascular exercise. (Especially since I had to carry my 40-pound youngster up the hills.)
While my son ran around with his newest friend at the playground, I used the slide, bench, swing and ladder to improve my strength.
The slide provides the perfect place for an “Australian pullup.” It is named so because you do it down under.
I used the ladder to do an elevated pushup by propping my feet up a few steps. I tried the same move on my suspension trainer, aka “the swing,” and decided I’d save that advanced exercise for a time when I’m stronger.
After I exhausted my upper body, I found a nearby bench. But I didn’t sit on it, as much as I may have wanted to.
As it turns out, the bench may be the single most amazing piece of workout equipment ever invented. If you have ever taken a step class or walked up a flight of stairs, you know how quickly just stepping up can wear you out. After a few minutes of stepping up and down from the bench, I needed to sit.
While I watched the boys play and caught my breath, I realized I could work out my triceps by gripping the edge of the bench and lowering my bottom to the ground and lifting myself back up.
At the end of my workout I walked back over to the boys. My son matter-of-factly told his friend, “My mom is working out.”
Later that night, I caught my son playing in his room. I laughed and asked him what he was doing as he jumped up and down.
“I’m just exercising,” he said as he fell to the floor and started laughing.