Playground Games that Count as Exercise


As the weather gets warmer, I see parents lined up on the park benches of playgrounds around the city. As they sit on their smartphones I wonder if they knew how many calories they could burn and health benefits gained from just playing with their kids.

The monkey bars, ladders, swings, and slides can provide a full body workout.  It’s not called a jungle GYM for nothing!

Now before anyone gets mad that I’m smartphone bashing, I know sometimes we are just WORN OUT and the entertainment of the playground can be a necessary relief.  Sometimes that smartphone is even a business “meeting” that allows to actually be at the park with your kids.

But, I also know we all have those days when we wish we could be at the gym but don’t have time.  We want to be with our kids but have to take care of our bodies as well.  Play can be a great opportunity to strengthen muscles, improve endurance, and burn calories while keeping your kids healthy too.

So, next time you are at the playground, remember these 5 Playground games that you can count as exercise:


Sprints across the playground to tag whoever is “it” can be great cardio without the boredom of a treadmill.  Add some variety by throwing in skips, butt kicks, lunges, and arm circles along the way.

Monkey Bars

Following your kids on the monkey bars uses major upper body strength.  You also get a great core workout and you can further hit your abs by doing a few knee pulls into your chest before you hop down.

Hula hoop

The hula hoop is one of the cheapest toys and pieces of exercise equipment.  However, it may take a bit of practice to pick the skill back up.  It is a great cardiovascular workout and engages the deep core muscles of the stomach and low back.


A hopscotch game can be turned into exercise by hopping on one foot, extending your legs far behind you, and retrieving your rock from the ground while staying on a single leg.  The body benefits include improved stability and balance.

Jumping Rope

Skipping is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise. It may even surprise you how quickly you tire out while jumping rope.  It’s a great way to build up endurance over time by seeing who can last the longest or challenge yourself to a certain time (maybe a minute longer than last week).

Play really can be one of the best forms of exercise.  I guarantee your kids are getting hot, sweaty, and winded on a mid-south summer day at the park so why shouldn’t you.

Are you limited in your ability to run, jump, and play with your kids or grandkids?

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