Remember running around outside for hours as a kid, playing tag, climbing trees or looking for frogs by the stream? Somewhere on the journey to adulthood, the exploration and adventure of exercise turned into a mind-numbing stint on the treadmill or just another item on your to do list. Hardly something you’d call “fun.”
“If you aren’t excited about what you’re doing for exercise, it makes it a lot harder to feel motivated,” said Kyle Bangen, MS, a strength and conditioning specialist at The SAM. “But if exercise is something you look forward to and you aren’t counting the minutes until you’re done, there’s a better chance you’ll stick with it.“
Bangen notes that fitness games are more likely to incorporate a variety of movements — bending, squatting, moving side to side, reaching, sprinting. This diversity strengthens more of the supportive muscles throughout the body, which means a lower risk of injury while doing daily tasks.
“Games engage your mind as well as your body and you don’t have to be an athlete or even coordinated to play,” said Bangen. “It’s an approachable way to make fitness fun.”
Try one of these games to mix up your workout routine or recruit a few friends for some group fun.
How to play: If you’re by yourself, stand facing a wall with your feet comfortably planted. If you have more than one player, face your partner or form a circle. Bounce the balloon back and forth without moving your feet. Then try it while standing on one foot, in a squat, a lunge, or a crab walk position.
Benefits: The reaching and leaning help develop core strength, balance and stability. Adding a squat or lunge strengthens the glutes, quads and hamstring muscles in the legs.
Deck of Destiny
How to play: Shuffle a deck of playing cards and lay the stack face down. Each suit is a different exercise, e.g. spades = squats, clubs = push ups, diamonds = sit ups, hearts = burpees. The number on the card is how many reps you must complete. Face cards are 10 and aces are 11. The joker can be a one-minute plank or a 100-meter sprint, depending on if you’re playing inside or outside. Try to complete the deck in less than 30 minutes.
Benefits: Vary your exercises to get a full body workout, or focus them all in one area like using four different core exercises one day and then four different leg exercises another.
How to play: Take a large bed sheet and spread it out on the floor. Everyone grabs an edge and lifts the sheet up like a parachute in gym class. Make large and small ripples. Use just one hand and then alternate. Lift the sheet up high and have someone run underneath before it settles. Place a balloon or beanbag on top and bounce it around the top of the sheet. This is a fun game for families, especially with small children.
Benefits: The large and small movements are a great workout for your arm muscles.
Cup Up/Cup Down
How to play: Using large plastic cups, at least three per person playing, set them up in a large area with half facing up and half facing down. Divide the group into two teams with one group assigned to flip all the cups up and the other to flip them down. Set a timer for one minute, and whichever group has the most cups in the desired position wins. Repeat.
Benefits: The combination of sprinting, bending, reaching, squatting and shifting direction will engage your ankles, legs, glutes, core and arm muscles.
How to play: Anytime you’re exercising but especially when you’re starting a new habit, tiredness and discouragement can often creep in. Keep a positive attitude about the impact you’re making on your health and the benefits you’re reaping. Set goals every time you workout for a certain amount of time, distance, weight, repetitions, etc. Notice the good feelings during your workout — maybe the wind on your face makes you feel free or the stretch of your muscles makes you feel capable. Remember those feelings the next time you’re tempted to slow down when you know you’re strong enough to speed up.
Benefits: A heart-pumping, muscle-moving workout benefits your body and mind, boosts your mood and energy levels, and helps control your weight and improve your sleep.
Join the Power Hour group workout sessions at The SAM and get motivation and expert guidance for your fitness goals.
Get reminders of simple things you can do to burn more calories throughout your day.