Adult Playgrounds – A New Effort to Encourage Physical Activity

Recently, adult outdoor gyms, or playgrounds, have been popping up in urban areas across the country. Although these parks do not have slides or swings (yet), they do have a variety of equipment including sit-up racks, balance beams, and chin-up bars that are scaled to adults (and are in fun colors too!).

Although they may vary by type of equipment available (cardio, strength, and low-impact) and demographic targeted (for example, parents with small children or the elderly), all are succeeding in motivating people to get out and exercise. Demand has been so high that there have been reports of people waiting in line for equipment.

There are considerable benefits to these new playgrounds. First, they are free! Unlike a traditional gym, you don’t have to worry about long contracts, pushy sales people, or a recurring monthly bill.  Second, they are accessible. They are outside and may be just down the block at your nearest community park or on the roof-top of a high-rise. Third, people who frequent adult playgrounds find it to be a great way to meet friends. Just as traditional children’s playgrounds serve as places to meet neighbors, adult playgrounds can also promote a greater sense of community around physical activity. One of the best predictors of whether people commit to exercise is whether they are able to make it a social activity.  Adult playgrounds provide an easy way to boost social engagement.

Whereas there are numerous benefits to getting outside and moving, take care not to overdo it. Make sure you know how to use the equipment properly (review any instructions posted) to avoid injury. If water is not available, bring your own. And, as always, check with your doctor to be sure you are healthy enough for the type of exercise planned.

Only time will tell if these adult playgrounds are just a fad or if they be embraced by their communities. This effort to encourage physical activity has great potential for success because it may help people re-discover the joy they felt as a kid just playing on the playground.

By: Dr. Laura M. Thornton