Using the playground as a place for exercise

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By Dr. Sender Deutsch
Published on August 6, 2015

Our bodies were designed to move often! We were meant to play like we did when we were kids; swinging, jumping, leaping, pushing and pulling. These movements are what keep our bodies healthy, strong and injury-free.

Movement causes the cells of our body to regenerate, keeping our muscles and connective tissue young and healthy. The connective tissue, which acts like saran wrap, is called fascia. Research has shown that the fascia is a protective barrier and a generator of force and movement. Our fascia has no starting or end position. It runs like a train through the body and plays an important role in allowing us to move freely. It acts like an elastic band that allows us to jump, run, and stretch in various positions. When kids play in the park, they are doing all of these movements including swinging, climbing, pushing and pulling on each apparatus. This will keep the kid’s fascia healthy and strong to maintain their strength and flexibility throughout their lifetime.  When we stop doing these movements this is when fascia can become less elastic and restrict our ability to move freely.  Thus, it is imperative we continue exercising throughout our lifetime.

There are many ways adults can use the same parks our children play in to strengthen and stretch their fascia, keeping your body young and youthful. In Europe, they are now creating playgrounds and parks specifically for adults in order for us to get back to our childhood days. Think of a gymnast as an example. Most of us wish to have their body type, looking powerful, strong and muscular.

Let’s get back to our roots and play!

The following program can be done 2-3 days per week on alternating days.  Do cardio on the days in-between for a full body routine.  Remember to use your imagination and start slowly building yourself up week after week.  Movement is the force of life and these full body exercises will keep feeling younger.

  1. Start by using a warm-up such as fast paced walking around the park for 5- 10 minutes. This will help the blood flow and make your fascia more pliable for the exercises to come. 

Spinal decompression:

  1. Put your back foot up on a bench or on a small step. Take a step forward with your other leg into a lunge position. This is called a “Bulgarian Lunge” pulse up and down for 10-15 repetitions per leg to open your hip flexors. Tight hip flexor fascia can cause low back pain as these muscles attaches to your lumbar spine and it often becomes tight from too much sitting at our computer in this technology driven world.
  2. Head to the high bars and begin swinging back and forth to decompress and elongate your spine. This will help release restrictions from your head to your toes. Look up at the sky and elongate the abdominal fascia, opening up the shoulder joint, which typically becomes tight and rolled forward. 

Gluteus medius activation and scapular activation – Postural Exercises to stabilize your spine from head to toe

  1. Single leg squats are one of the best exercises for targeting the lower kinetic chain and allows you to activate the hip muscles, which stabilize the entire core, pelvic and lower regions. It also allows for a stable platform for the spine to be centered upon. Start by standing on the step again and slowly lower the opposite leg to the floor without touching. Try to aim for 10-15 repetitions per leg.
  2. Incline push-ups in the sand will help provide a subtle unstable platform. Make sure when you push upwards you add a subtle little plus at the top in order to activate your serratus anterior muscles which will help stabilize your shoulder girdle. Try to aim for 10-15 repetitions.
  3. Use the parallel bars to do reverse pull-ups and activate your scapular stabilizers. Get in a bridge position and hold at the top, pinching the shoulder blades together. Try to aim for 10-15 repetitions per leg. 

Strength and Conditioning Exercises

Do the following exercises as a circuit, resting no more than 30-60 seconds at a time to get the greatest caloric and strength benefit.

  1. Find a platform and jump on and step off it – aka “box jumps”.  Step down off the platform instead of jumping down to prevent excessive impact to your body. Aim for 6-10 repetitions.
  2. Pull up or chin ups- as many as you can. If you cannot perform either of these, than use a lower bar and jump up to the bar lowering yourself back down to the ground. Aim for 4-6 repetitions. These are called eccentric movements, which will help you build strength.
  3. Head to the slide and climb up and down the ladder 6 to ten times as quickly as possible.
  4. Use the parallel bars and hold your body straight up to activate your tricep muscles. Now bring your knees to your chest 10 times. 

Core Work

  1. Hanging abdominal raises- hang from the chin up bars and bring your knees to your chest 10-20 repetitions.
  2. Side plank on the step, stair or platform. Get into an incline side plank position and go up and down for 10-15 repetitions per side.
  3. Sit on the swing in a v-sit position and bring your knees to the opposite shoulder to your chest to work you abdominal oblique muscles.  Hold on tight and aim for 20 repetitions in total. 


Hold each stretch for 1-3 minutes to re-establish the length of your fascia.

  1. Put your foot up as high as you can onto one of the steps of the ladder, working your body into a high lunge position. Reach up to the sky as high as possible so you can feel a deep stretch in your hip flexor and abdominal fascia.
  2. Step onto the ladder, with your legs straight pull your body back, until your arms are completely straight and work to feel the stretch throughout the entire posterior chain from your toes, feet, calves and hamstrings. You should also feel the stretch along the back into your shoulders.
  3. Stretch the anterior chain but hanging from the pull-up bar with the top of your feet on the floor. Arch your back and look upwards to the sky and feel a deep stretch through the entire front of the body.