Fitness Extra: Playtime with Kids

family running through a fieldAs we shift into the warmer temperatures of spring, we can get our bodies moving in more ways than working out at the gym. It’s joyful and effective to live an active lifestyle!

One way to stay youthful and active is to move like children. Even you don’t have any of your own to romp around with, you can find a niece, nephew or even a pet ready to play.

Whether it’s your next family reunion or a simple day at the park, consider the good times–and the heart-pumping, calorie-burning benefits of playing a few outdoor games that kids of all ages have always loved.

Letting Loose with Little Kids

Chase & Tag: Time to pull out all your old favorites and get your “interval” and “endurance” cardio play going. Got a small child you can chase after for a little game of “boo!” or hide and seek? Perfect. Crawling around on the ground works well too—a bit of bear or alligator crawl gets to your core. Little kids love roaring monsters, and you’ll be surprised at how you sweat.

You can teach the concept of “you’re It” to young grade schoolers, and gather a larger crowd together at a party to start running around in a game of Tag. Try the “Freeze Tag” version, where anyone who gets tagged must freeze in that position until someone on their team tags them again to unfreeze them. Great for balance and control, kind of like a yoga pose!

Pigs, Ducks & Frogs: Little kids love animal games. Remember Farmer in the Dell? Take it beyond the barnyard to get even more secret fitness out of your playtime. Piggyback rides, anyone? Awesome for strength. Duck, Duck, Goose is a game that offers some rest time, and then sprints. Leap Frog equals plyometrics and more: jumps and deep squats, and a whole lot of smiles.

Swing & Slide: They get to go “weeee!” and you get to work your body, pushing, climbing, catching and more. From baby swings to wavy slides, and monkey bars to merry-go-rounds, finding a playground with an assortment of classic equipment is a wonderful way to free up your body and spirit with little kids.

dad playing soccer with his sons

Teaming Up with Older Kids

Competitive Games: Got any yard game equipment? It’s time to bring it out, and include the kids who will help you pick up the pace and keep it going for hours. Cornhole, or Baggo, is a great example. It’s not an extra-tough workout, but just standing to toss beanbags across the yard is better than sitting and snacking on chips and dip while you watch the kids play!

Races: You can also work in some healthy competition by setting up a few races. Feel free to be old-fashioned about it—there’s extra upper body in the wheelbarrow race and agility training in the three-legged race. Potato sacks (or old pillow cases) are just right for a long hopping and jumping race to the finish.

Team Sports: Ball games are another great choice for getting active with kids. Bring out a couple of mitts and a softball, or go barehanded tossing a tennis ball, in a round of Monkey in the Middle. If you’re near a playground with blacktop, bring some chalk and a bouncing ball for 4-Square tournament. Or, there’s always hoops—whether it’s a pick-up game or a game of H-O-R-S-E, it will add to your weekend playtime workout.

They Keep You Young & Fit

There’s more than fun to be had if you take advantage of outdoor playtime with kids in the midst. If you are lucky enough to have a baby on a blanket at a picnic, just playing with her will add up to one hundred calories an hour on to what you’d spend sitting and reading a book under a tree.

Stand up and play moderately—as in the playground time, a game of Tag, or shooting some baskets, and you can double that burn.

When you get vigorous, like racing, jumping, carrying and chasing, you’ll not only increase your energy use, you’ll work your muscles, your mind, and your heart, too. 400 – 500 calories from a 2-hour play date one sunny afternoon is a nice addition to your training week!

No kids around? That’s okay, a lot of this applies to you getting out and active with your pet. Dog walking is a lot like moderate play, and if you add in some running and Frisbee toss, you’ve got yourself a vigorous workout.

Or give the dog a bath—that’s up to another 175 calories of sudsy fun with a big pup!

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