Playgrounds for adults
Jan. 10, 2020
by Ivan Raconteur

When I first read about adult playgrounds (sometimes called multi-generational playgrounds), the idea seemed odd to me. However, being a curious person, I did some more reading, and it began to make sense.

For one thing, adult playgrounds provide a fun way for people who are no longer children to add some physical activity to their days.

I understand adult playgrounds are often built in close proximity to children’s playgrounds, so instead of sitting on a bench watching their kids, the adults can move around a bit.

Instead of being a chore, exercising outdoors may be viewed as play. It can be more spontaneous and informal.

This may reduce stress and improve attitudes.

Adult playgrounds apparently come in all sizes.

The 600,000-square-foot City Museum in St. Louis, MO is built on a grand scale. It includes a jungle gym that incorporates two airplanes. There are a variety of multi-floor slides, caves, tunnels, a circus arts facility, and much more.

On the smaller end of the spectrum are playgrounds that may include a few pieces of gym equipment or an obstacle course.

A lot of people don’t get anywhere near the recommended level of physical activity each week. Some get almost none at all.

People can also be stubborn, and don’t like to be told what to do.

But, if an outdoor playground is placed in front of them and they find it convenient and even fun, there is a better chance they might use it.

Some advocates of adult playgrounds note that people – especially those who are not in top condition – may be intimidated by the atmosphere (or cost) of traditional gyms.

But, the informal nature of adult playgrounds, coupled with fresh air and sunshine, might make them more comfortable.

According to Harvard Health Publishing/Harvard Medical School, the benefits of adult playgrounds include:

• Multi-generational fitness parks are free, and you can visit them on your own schedule.

• The exercise machines resemble playground equipment; if you dislike exercising, you may feel like you’re just playing, not working.

• You can exercise with your friends, kids, or grandchildren. Being with others helps stave off loneliness and depression, which are associated with chronic disease.

• Exercising with other people is a motivator.

• There’s no one judging you or telling you which machines or exercises you should try, or how long to exercise.

Other sources note that adult playgrounds may focus on goals such as improving core muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and overall well-being.

These seem to be worthwhile objectives. If, for example, spending some time playing at an adult playground can improve balance, and if this results in fewer falls for seniors, it sounds like a great idea.

If these facilities can reduce isolation for older individuals, and provide a fun place for them to interact with others, why would anyone object to that?

Some of us just aren’t as active as we once were.

In my case, it’s not that I don’t want to get out and engage in physical activity. It’s more a matter of convenience and making it a priority.

When I was young, I spent a lot of my time outdoors, hiking, climbing, swimming, and even jumping.

I don’t jump much anymore, and it’s been ages since I climbed a tree or a mountain.

But, if there was an adult playground in the area, I might just go over there and goof around for awhile in my lunch period. This might be a good reason to actually take a lunch period.

Increasing the number of adult playgrounds seems like a step forward for public health, and a victory for those who believe kids shouldn’t have all the fun.

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