Lose Weight at the Park

Want exercise so fun it seems more like play than a workout? Head outdoors.

A trip to the park is a great way to sneak in some exercise, and the benefits may be even better than you think.

“Your body has to make adjustments to the terrain — adjustments that don’t come into play when you’re indoors on a treadmill or an exercise bike,” says Lou Schuler, CSCS, author of The New Rules of Lifting.

A Word of Caution

All of our experts agreed that these activities should be used not as an exercise replacement, but to improve your overall conditioning. They should be fun and you shouldn’t play so hard that you put yourself at risk of injury.
Every step you take on uneven ground helps develop stability and coordination. The more active you are, the better the body benefits. We spoke with some experts to get you motivated and came up with six activities that can help you lose weight.

“Running has the highest intensity and is the best of the bunch by a long shot,” says Gunnar Peterson, CSCS, a personal trainer based in Beverly Hills, CA, who is well known for coming up with creative workouts for stressed-out celebs. What makes it such a great workout? It’s an open kinetic chain that forces you to take your foot off the ground, puts more demand on your heart rate and burns calories at a higher rate, says Peterson. Additionally, the impact of your stride on the ground makes your muscles work in a different way to absorb the pressure. “Walking is a close second if you push the pace, add an incline or throw on a weight vest,” says Peterson.

While the running aspect of the game is obviously good for your heart rate, the biggest benefit comes from the changes in speed and direction, Schuler says. You run, you walk; you move this way, you move that way — soccer is really just one long interval workout that challenges your muscles in every possible way.

Like elliptical machines, bikes are good because they’re easy on your knees. “It’s not a weight-bearing workout; that’s why individuals who are overweight have less trouble riding bikes than running,” says Dr. Robert G. McMurray, a professor of exercise science and nutrition at the University of North Carolina. He points out that a person can burn a considerable amount of calories very easily by pedaling faster, riding uphill, or facing into the wind.

Inline Skating
Dust off your Rollerblades. "Because this requires so much balance, it really works your core muscles,” says Peterson. “And since each leg takes turns pushing off, it’s a very even workout and doesn’t rely just on your dominant side.” It’s still considered a weight-bearing activity but it’s easier on you than, say, running, because it’s less strenuous on your knees. McMurray rates blading as a moderate or strenuous activity, depending on how hard you push yourself.

Playing catch
If you’re playing with a somewhat competent thrower, this won’t be such a tough workout. But, if you’re playing with a young kid, you’ll get a decent workout running after the ball. “The throwing motion works your shoulders, your core and your glutes — just be careful not to throw out your shoulder,” says Peterson. To avoid injury, he suggests starting off your round standing closer to your partner and then slowly increasing the distance as you warm up.

The underhand throwing motion works your biceps, and bending down to pick up the horseshoes will work your lower back, but don’t expect to go from a horseshoe pit to a triathlon. To make it slightly more strenuous — and to prevent a further imbalance between your dominant and non-dominant sides — Peterson suggests taking one throw with your right hand and the next throw with your left.

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