Now that the days are getting longer, consider ditching your stuffy indoor workout routine and go out and play instead!
Fool around with your hula hoop. Playing tag. Throw a ball around the yard. These activities were fun and effective ways to work off stress, burn calories and build muscle long before rowing machines, stairmasters and expensive gym memberships were invented—and they're a lot more fun.
Remember those days? The running and jumping and stretching of handball, dodgeball or tag worked out your body so well you fell asleep the moment your head hit the pillow.
But just because you’re all grown up now doesn’t mean you can’t be a kid again. After a long, regimented day at the office, why not burn off some stress and calories with a spontaneous game of dodgeball or hopscotch?
There’s both a sports psychology and a social benefit to street games. With impromptu street games, teams are picked, alliances formed, skills honed and rules made up, all within a matter of minutes. No vetting or membership dues, no formal ball leagues or rigid schedules or structure is necessary.
Street play builds communities and fosters sportsmanship
. Games use your imagination, save time that would be spent driving to and from organized clubs and burn off stress faster than you can say “Tag, you’re it!”
But, one of the best reasons of all to trade in your gym pass for a stick and ball is how much more fun you’ll have. When you’re playing hard instead of working hard, your brain’s reward centers light up and you have more energy.
Here are five classic childhood street games you can play to build muscle, burn calories and put some fun into your fitness training.
Hoop it Up
Don’t run yourself in circles trying to slim down, get your workout to run circles around you instead by taking up hula hooping.
Maybe your were a kid the last time you played with a hula hoop, but this simple implement can strengthen your abs, build your thighs and even tone your arms.
Hula hoops can be intimidating at first. The first thing you need is the right size hoop for your height. To determine the correct size, stand the hoop on end in front of your body. The top of the hoop should come up to your navel.
Next, to get things in motion, it’s important to move the part of your body that is in contact with the hoop. For example, if you want to swing the hoop from your waist, only move your waist back and forth, not your hips and thighs. Otherwise, your hoop will lose momentum and drop to the floor.
Keep at it. With a little practice you’ll be in the swing of it in no time.
You can hoop in your living room, in the park or, for more fun, gather a group of fellow hula-ers and hoop it up together.
Your back, waist, calf and abdominal muscles are sure to be well worked and probably sore after an hour of hula hoop gyrations, not to mention the cardiovascular workout.
If you use a weighted hoop, a recent study
shows, it can burn as many calories as step aerobics or speed walking.
On average*, 10 minutes of hula hooping can burn 85-100 calories.
Of all the urban sports, stickball stands out as the most well known and best beloved. All you need is a stick, such as a broom handle, a rubber ball, a bunch of people and a place to play.
There are three basic forms of stickball: fast pitching against a wall, bounce or slow-pitching and “fungo,” a baseball term that means pitching the ball to yourself. Fungo and slow-pitch are usually played in the street, with anywhere from three to eight players per side.
You can get a game of stickball going almost anywhere—on the street, in your backyard, at your kids' schoolyard, even in an empty parking lot or corner lot.
Rules vary, of course, but in general it’s usually one, sometimes two, strikes and you're out. Anything that lands on a roof, in a pool or in Mrs. Gordon’s flower garden is an automatic out. Otherwise, regular baseball rules apply.
Stickball uses leg and arm muscles and also provides a great cardiovascular workout.
On average, playing a half hour game of stickball will burn 182 calories.
Hopscotch is fun and super easy. The jumping, bending and stretching involved in hopscotch can burn about 340 calories per hour. Don’t be shy. Break out your sidewalk chalk and hopscotch your afternoon into happiness.
You’ll need a hopscotch board and a marker. A marker can be anything from a bottle cap, bean bag, block of wood or even a penny. Drawing a board with sidewalk chalk or washable paint will do just fine.
Your board is made up of 10 squares or boxes, numbered one through 10 in ascending order. The first box is called the hopscotch box and is number one. Box number two sits on top of the first box. Boxes three and four are set side by side, and so on until you’ve numbered all 10 boxes.
To play, the person taking first turn throws a marker onto box number one. If the marker falls outside the hopscotch box, player one loses her turn and it is the next person’s turn. He or she then jumps over the box with the marker, setting one foot only in each box as she progresses up the hopscotch board to get to the number ten box at the top.
Once you reach the end of the board, turn around and make your way back down the board without touching any lines. When you get to the marker, stop in the one box or double box before it and reach down to pick up the marker without falling or touching the lines. Most of the time you are on one foot, so this can be challenging.
Once the marker is in your hand, continue to the beginning of the course.You will have to do this until you miss the next number with the marker or you fall or step on the lines.Then it is the other player’s turn.The first player to reach the top and back to number one again wins.
Hopscotch builds hand-eye coordination, strengthens leg muscles and provides a mild aerobic workout.
An hour of hopscotch can burn about 340 calories.
A combination of hide-and-seek and tag, flashlight tag will keep you on the run. Flashlight tag is more fun at night and you’ll need a large area that is safe to run around in the dark. There is no limit to the number of players.
The player who is designated “it” gets a flashlight. The “it” counts to 50 while everyone else hides. When the "it" player finds someone, he shines the flashlight on the discovered player who then becomes the new "it." The first player is now free to go hide himself.
Variations on flashlight tag are endless. You can make up your own rules and configure your teams as the situation calls for.
There’s a lot of scurrying around and sprinting and running involved in Flashlight Tag, so it’s sure to give you a moderate aerobic workout.
An hour of Flashlight Tag can burn about 100 calories. Let’s hope you don’t burn through your flashlight batteries as quickly as that!
Horse Around the Basketball Court
Horse requires more shooting skills than muscle strength or aerobic stamina. Anyone who is tall enough to throw a basketball into a hoop can play. All you need is a basketball, a basketball hoop and a length of street or driveway to play on.
To play Horse, line up the players. There is no set limit to the number of players, but 5 - 7 players works well. The first player makes his shot, in his own style. If he misses, he goes to the end of the line. If he makes the basket, the next player must make the same type of shot. If the second player misses, he gets an “H,” and it is the next player’s turn to announce a shot and try to make it.
Every time a player misses a shot that his predecessor made, he gets another letter until someone has spelled “horse.” At that point the player is out. The other players continue until only one player is left. You could also switch the rule to giving a letter every time a player makes a successful shot and the first one to spell horse wins.
If spelling out horse results in a game that’s too short, you can always choose a word, or a breed, that’s longer. How about Palomino?
Calories burned playing basketball for 30 minutes varies with each person, but everyone will work out their arms, get a moderate aerobic and cardiovascular workout and release some muscle tension.
In general, a person will burn around 200 calories in a half hour of informal basketball playing. Just shooting hoops burns around 150 calories, while an actual pick-up game would burn about 270 calories.
These are just a few of the fun and games you can use for your fitness regimen. The best part is, the rules of the game are only limited by your imagination and your supply of sidewalk chalk. Happy horsing around!
Check out The Games
for a list of more fun and impromptu fitness workouts, and a walk down memory lane.
UPDATE: Word on the street is, Huff Post agrees, getting in shape doesn't have to be a drag.
*Calorie burn rates are based on a body weight of 150 pounds. Your rate may vary according to individual weight and fitness level.