6 Playground Moves that Make Exercise Fun Again

Remember when exercise meant taking your two-wheeler out for a glory ride, playing kickball in the cul-de-sac, and chasing fireflies? As a kid, you didn't head out to the jungle gym looking for a workout, but you sure were getting one. When did exercise stop being fun?

Growing up can take its toll on the fun quotient of exercise--and moving your physical activity from the playground to the gym probably didn't help. Forty percent of women recently surveyed by the American Cancer Society reported that they would be more active if exercises were more fun. While it's no secret that exercise is beneficial for your body and mind, you might not know the half of it.

Exercise can directly and indirectly reduce your risk of developing cancer, says Colleen Doyle, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society and coauthor of ACS's Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines. Physical activity can directly reduce your cancer risk by decreasing the levels of circulating hormones associated with cell and tumor growth. Exercise also has an impact on weight control, and since people who are overweight tend to have higher levels of these same hormones, losing weight helps to reduce those levels, thus indirectly reducing the risk of developing cancer.

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You don't have to run a marathon to see the real benefits of exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (e.g., walking a 15-minute mile) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. While this can be broken down into spurts of just 10 minutes at a time, only about 50 percent of us meet the recommendation, says Doyle. So how do we get there? "Find something you like to do," she says, "and you'll keep doing it."

If the last workout you enjoyed took place during recess, you're bound to like this one: We turned to certified strength and conditioning specialist and metabolic training expert BJ Gaddour, CEO of StreamFIT.com, to create a workout that gets you out of the gym and onto the playground. Perform these six moves one at a time in any order to work your arms and abs and also give your metabolism a boost. Perform the routine up to twice a week as part of your total-body fitness plan.

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Monkey bars are perfect for pullups, the ultimate test of upper-body strength and an incredible core exercise. Using three different grips changes the emphasis on your upper-body pulling muscles: An underhand grip works your biceps, a neutral grip works your forearms and mid-back, and an overhand grip targets your lats and rear shoulders.

The move: Changing-Grip Pullup

How to do it: Alternate among three grips: 1) Underhand: palms facing your body on a single bar; 2) Neutral: palms facing each other on parallel bars; 3) Overhand: Palms facing away from you on a single bar. Perform a single rep of each type of pullup, changing your grip from a dead hang after each rep. (You can also try out mixed-grip pull-ups, in which one hand takes one type of grip while the other hand takes another.) Aim for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.

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Who needs a suspension trainer when you can do these moves on a swing?

The move: Atomic Pushup and Mountain-Climber Combo
How to do it: Atomic Pushup: Begin in a pushup position with your hands on the ground and your feet on top of the seat of a swing. Keeping your core tight and your lower back stable, bring your knees toward your chest, then reverse the movement. Follow with a pushup, holding your body in a straight line and your elbows tucked tight to your sides. Perform the entire sequence as many times as you can for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds and transition to the Swing Mountain Climber.

How to do it: Swing Mountain Climber: Begin in a pushup position again, this time with your palms on the seat of the swing and your feet on the ground. Keeping your lower back stable, bring one knee in toward your chest, then return it to the starting position. Alternate knees and repeat for 45 seconds, increasing your speed to add intensity.

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Jumping rope can be a pain, especially if you keep tripping on the rope. Use a fake jump rope to make it more fun and effective (and less embarrassing!).

The move: Make-Believe Jump-Roping Boxing
How to do it: Pretend you are holding a rope and mimic jump-roping movements with your arms as you bounce on your toes. To mix it up, hop from foot to foot, front to back, or side to side. You can also add in moves such as high knees or butt kicks. Alternate between three minutes of work and one minute of rest; that's one round. Perform up to 10 rounds.

Since most of us can't actually climb up a rope, here's a great way to put the suspended weight of a rope to use in an arm-pumping cardio workout.

The move: Battle-Rope Waves
How to do it:
Grab the bottom of the rope and swing it as hard as you can to create a wave pattern using any motion you'd like: up and down, side to side, figure eights, slams, etc. Alternate between 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for 10 total rounds.

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Nope, you're not riding down it! Use the slide to work your body against gravity.

The move: Sliders
How to do it: Facing the base of a smooth-surfaced slide, place your hands on the sides of the slide (be careful of sharp metal edges on old-school models) and assume a pushup position. Walk your hands up the slide, with your feet following and without bending your knees, so you are shuffling up the slide (not climbing). Once you get to the top, reverse the movement. Repeat for 60 seconds. Make it harder by walking up the slide backwards so your upper body is now working harder against gravity.


Partner up for this core-challenging move.

The move: Seesaw Pushup Hold

How to do it: Partner A: Choose the side of the seesaw that's in the down position and face away from it. Assume a pushup position with your hands on the ground and your toes on the seat so your body extends in a straight line from the seesaw. Use your core muscles to keep your body straight.
Partner B: Stand beside the other end of the seesaw and use your hands to slowly push down on the seat so partner A's feet rise off the ground. Begin with a small downward movement, and increase the range of motion based on your partner's comfort level. (The greater the range of motion, the harder it will be for your partner to stabilize her spine, and the greater the challenge.) Then allow your side of the seesaw to rise back up to the starting position. Repeat slowly for 60 seconds and then switch roles.

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TELL US: What was your favorite playground activity as a kid?

--By Elizabeth Narins, Women's Health

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