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Your Local Park: An Exercise Treasure Chest

Unleash the Magic
  -- By Christopher Stormann, Ph.D.

If you haven’t been to a park lately, you should make plans for this weekend. It’s probably closer than you think and has more to offer than you could imagine, your very own exercise treasure chest.

Parks come in all different sizes. From small local parks tucked between crowded streets and houses, to massive national parks containing the great wonders of the world, and everything in between. Whichever one you choose, there are going to be opportunities for exercise.

What can you do to get exercise at the park?

Exercise is really what you make of it. You can get more out of your exercise by taking along a friend or two. With another person or group, you can throw a Frisbee or start a pick-up game of full court, run ‘n’ gun basketball. If Frisbee tossing is too leisurely and sprinting up and down the court sounds like a bit much, there are plenty of options in between. Softball is a good example. Take a glove and don’t worry about fielding your own team. Most folks would love to have an extra player or two. Parks tend to be a low-stress environment, so you can be at any skill level and fit in just fine.

There are plenty of other team-oriented types of exercises you can do at the park. It is pretty common for the bigger parks to have soccer fields, baseball fields, Frisbee golf, basketball courts, and even tennis courts. Some parks even have fitness trails with stations set up along the way to work different muscle groups. Think of an adult jungle gym and you’ve got the right idea.

Exercise in the park is a great time for solitude and reflection as well. A trip to the park is a perfect opportunity to take a few moments for numero uno. (That’s you!) Many a problem has been solved by taking a walk in the park. Lush landscapes have a way of making things easier on a person. Indeed, whoever came up with the colloquial comment, "that’s just a walk in the park," must have known what they were talking about!

If the park is remote, there is a good chance that it has a sizeable hiking trail. These paths bring you closer to nature by putting you in the woods and making exercise all the more enjoyable and scenic. For a real challenge, step up the pace and take a jog through the wooded trails. If the trail is a little flatter and paved, you might want to try your hand at roller blading. Roller blading is a great lower body workout that hits your core more than you might imagine. Don’t forget to wear some protection like a helmet and kneepads while roller blading.

Land is not the only benefit that a park has to offer when it comes to exercise. Cool rivers and shimmering lakes offer a totally different experience. Swimming has the benefit of being a low-impact workout. Keep in mind you can also bring your own watercraft for a workout, and some parks offer boat rental so that you can canoe, kayak, or paddleboat even if you don’t have one of your own.

There are many opportunities to get exercise at the park. Your city most likely has a parks department; check online to see if they have a web site. These web sites are a great resource for exploring what is out there. You should come across some maps there to find parks in your area along with listings containing amenities and exercise opportunities at each of the parks in the jurisdiction. Hope you find your way to the park this weekend and discover your own treasure!