The Ultimate Playground Workout


A mom working out on the playground.Did you know that full-body fitness can be achieved right around the corner at the playground? The next time you head to the playground, wear your workout clothes and bring a water bottle! They used to call it a jungle “gym” for a reason. Bring on the playground workout!

1. Ladder Step-Ups

Find a ladder and start with a medium-height rung. Put your right foot on the rung and hold onto the sides slightly above shoulder height. Use your legs and arms to step up and lower your body, keeping your right foot on the ladder the whole time.

Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch to the other legs for 30 seconds. Next, step one rung higher, keep your right foot on the rung, repeat stepping up and down, letting your arms and legs work together for another 30 seconds, then switch to the other foot for another 30 seconds.

2. Hold on Squats

Stand in front of a ladder, grab onto the ladder below shoulder height with arms fully extended. Sit into a squat, keeping your arms straight so that your shoulders are over your hips, lowering into a squat, then slowly come back up. Continue for 30 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break, repeat a second time, or, for an extra challenge, try a set with your right foot off the ground, then your left foot.

3. Swing Jumps

This is a tough one, so read on for the modification. Stand behind the swing. Take a few warm-up jumps straight in the air. Next, grab onto the chains with each hand. Then, jump over the swing. Walk behind the swing and repeat. Continue for 30 seconds. (Alternatively, step over the swing rather than jumping, and alternate lead legs). Take a 15- 30 second break, and then repeat a second time.

4. Bench Step-Ups

Find a bench, and step up, up, down, down, ensuring you are standing up completely each time and keeping good form as you step down. Continue with your right leg leading for 30 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break, then repeat the step-ups leading with your left leg for 30 seconds. Repeat for a second set with each leg.

5. Swing Rows

If you’ve ever done TRX before, this will look familiar. Hold onto the chains of the swing. Walk your feet under the swing. The lower you go, the harder it is. Keeping a straight body position, pull your body towards the swing, bring your chest to the swing, extend your arms again, and continue for 30 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break and do a second set.

6. Bridge Climb Overs

A full-body jump and climb is in order if there is a bridge and not too many kids! Grab onto the rungs, jump up, climb over, and jump or step down. Haven’t done this type of climbing since you were a kid? Take it slow and steady. There’s no rush! Continue for one minute.

7. Monkey Bars

These are tough if you haven’t done it in years. I love doing the monkey bars. Hanging is a great stretch; the exercises make me feel like a kid! Hold onto the monkey bars and let your body hang, keeping your feet lightly on the floor. Feel the extension in your arms and shoulders. If that feels good, take your feet off the floor. Hold for 2 seconds, 5, 10, 30, whatever you can do, and then swing to the next rung.

8. Push Ups

A longtime “favorite.” Please put your hands on the bench, or make it even more challenging with hands on the ground, or hardest with feet on the bench and hands on the ground. Bend those elbows and let your whole body lower and lift as one unit. Make sure you are breathing! Continue for 30 seconds. Take a 15-second break and repeat for up to 30 seconds (if you lose your form, take a break!).

9. Swing Knee Tucks

These are challenging but great for your core. Come down to your knees in front of the swing. Keeping your hands under your shoulders, place one foot and the other on the swing. Adjust your positioning so you are in a straight body position, hands under shoulders. Hold as long as you can maintain a straight body position, being sure to breathe. Aim for 5-30 seconds. Next, bring your knees towards your chest in a tuck and back out for 10-20 repetitions if you can.

10. Bonus Playground Fun

Look around at what fun elements are at the playground. Are there poles to climb up or down? Balance beams? Use what’s available to finish off a great workout.

Want a longer workout? Repeat the sequence a second time. You’ll feel it. Let us know if you try it or what your favorite playground workout is!

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Elysa Cruse
Elysa Cruse is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer and is the Manager of the Corporate Wellness Program for Pitney Bowes ( She moved to Fairfield County after college and has been enjoying great ways to be active and eat well in the area ever since, including teaching exercise classes such as Stroller Strides, Pilates and Boot Camp. She is mom to an adorable 3 year old boy and loves getting outdoors whether hiking, biking, or running (really anything as long as it's not weeding). Elysa is still working on the ultimate in work life balance and she's okay if she never quite finds it. Connect with Elysa on Twitter @ElysaCruseRD


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