Skip the pricey gym memberships, and reclaim the playground for working out! Another fantastic Boomer trend to capture!
It may seem like kids get to have all the fun — at least when it comes to outdoor exercise. But more and more towns, senior centers and retirement communities are filling their green spaces with playground-style equipment aimed at grownups. While the installations may resemble monkey bars, they are designed for specific workouts.
One retirement community in North Carolina, is opening its second “intergenerational play space,” as named by this spectacular project team. Tracy McGinnis, director of philanthropy at the Southminster life-plan community, says the first play space — which was created with the county parks department — has drawn many people who are attracted “not just to the physical play but to the social play, as well.
One of the reviews from a participant reflects, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old,” she says, quoting George Bernard Shaw. “We grow old because we stop playing.” So true!
Why the sudden interest?
“Outdoors is where we are. As we age, we’re less likely to do strength training in an indoor gym, but we still walk outdoors. If the older people aren’t into fitness centers, take the fitness center to them!” This is the trend: many parks are replacing outdoor trails and exercise areas designed for a younger fit population, with equipment that is more accessible to everyone.
The equipment is easy to use, low impact and designed to prevent falls. It works almost every muscle group, yet can be used by people with limited agility, balance and flexibility. Some equipment allows people in wheelchairs to roll up and participate. You might see…
- A swing that is strong and has wide seats so adults, and not just kids, can use it.
- A slide that’s adult-sized and has a gentle slope so it’s safe for all ages.
- A roomy, comfortable outdoor recumbent bike that’s easy to get onto and off of—and inviting to use.
- A two-person cross-country ski machine that’s easy to use and fun for people of any age from teens to octogenarians—truly multigenerational.
- An elliptical machine in which you stand and simply swing your legs to and fro—a great way to improve range of motion.
- A “Tai Chi Spinner”—two wheels, one for the right hand and one for the left, that you can rotate this way and that way together or separately to improve flexibility in your arms, shoulders and wrists. (It’s also good as a warm-up for golf.)
- A two-person “rotator”—think of it as a really safe seesaw—that stretches the backs and hips while strengthening the abs.
- Stand-alone “activity panels.” One panel has a bar that you lean against to do push-ups (without getting down to the ground), another a bar that you lift over your head to strengthen your shoulder muscles, a third instructs you on how to do easy mini squats, while a fourth has handles that you turn for upper body cycling.
Most multi-generational outdoor fitness parks cover the four key elements of fitness—aerobic activity, strength training, balance and flexibility. As we age, it’s common to lose muscle mass, but strengthening muscles is key to enjoying our favorite activities and hobbies…and having a good quality of life. Balance is often overlooked, as well—by both young and older adults.
So, what are we waiting for! Off to the parks…off to the gym in the parks!
Don’t let the young have all the fun!
Join the dialogue and let us know how you feel about these outdoor fitness parks. An up and coming trend that may work for you and your family!
As always, I am…the new see-sawing Boomer Explorer.