Having a regular fitness routine is vital to your physical and mental health. But let’s face it — working out can be boring; and when you tire of your exercise routine, you lose the motivation to do it. So, what’s the solution? Hula Hoops… and skipping, and jumping rope, and many other activities you enjoyed as a kid.
As it turns out, scientific research says novelty is a key factor in maintaining a consistent fitness regimen. That could mean Bollywood dance classes or ’80s workout tapes. It could also mean revisiting the games you played in the schoolyard. Back then, you probably didn’t think of things like running and swinging as “fitness.” You did them because they were fun, or social, or competitive. But they are, in fact, great for your health, whether you’re six or 60.
Below are five childhood activities will make you smile and work up a sweat. (Seriously, jumping rope is way more exhausting than you remember).
A jump rope is a small piece of equipment that delivers super-sized benefits. The repetitive motions involved in jumping rope strengthen both your arms and your legs, and trainers say it’s an effective way to cram a full-body workout into a short period of time. A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion even found that jumping rope could improve bone density — something that’s particularly important for mature women. Jumping rope also offers a lot of versatility: You can jump at a slow and steady pace for a low-impact workout, or speed it up for a HIIT-style effort. If your rope skills are rusty, aim for intervals of one to five minutes. As you gradually build your balance and coordination and find yourself able to jump consistently for a few minutes at a time, try doing circuit routines that incorporate different movements.
There’s nothing quite like bouncing up and down on a trampoline. A small solo trampoline (which is safer than the large backyard kind) offers an easy way to move, and it’s particularly helpful for improving balance. In fact, a study in Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology showed that elderly subjects who regularly hopped on a mini trampoline for 14 weeks saw improved balance and were less likely to fall. The up-and-down motion of jumping on a trampoline works your abs, glutes, legs, and back muscles. Just remember this activity isn’t about leaping as high as you can — in fact, it’s best to stay low and controlled as you jump, and keep your core engaged (trainers recommend a squatting position). Once you’re used to jumping, you can try a 20-minute workout.
If you’re trying to tone your waist, the hula hoop may be the way to go. One study found that when a small group of women hula hooped consistently for six weeks, they reported slimmer waists and hips. The hula hoops kids use are often made out of flimsy plastic, but you can try a weighted hula hoop to get an even better workout. The distinctive movements of hula hooping — namely, swaying your hips to keep the hoop circling around your waist — can work up a serious sweat and strengthen your core. Once you feel comfortable keeping the hoop in motion (practice makes perfect!) you can try a beginner workout that incorporates dance moves.
A workout you can do while seated? Sign me up! Swinging is a peaceful activity that works your legs and core: you need to kick to push yourself upwards toward the sky, and keep your core engaged to maintain balance. You might think all you’re really doing is rocking back and forth — how can that be a workout? — but there are a number of exercises you can combine with a good swing. Try this one from Livestrong: Sit on the swing seat, but instead of pushing off with your legs, bend your knees and draw them into your chest to move back and forth. Once you’ve done this motion a few times, you’ll feel your core working. Just make sure the swing set you’re using is sturdy enough to support your weight, and that you are firmly seated and well-balanced before attempting anything too fancy.
There’s a reason the idiom “it’s just like riding a bike” refers to something that’s second nature. If you learned to ride a bike as a kid, there’s a good chance you still remember how to do it, even if you haven’t biked for years. Biking is an excellent low-impact workout that helps to strengthen your leg muscles and improve balance. Pedaling around town may even benefit your cognitive function and well-being, according to a study in the journal PLOS One. And biking isn’t merely a form of exercise: it’s also a eco-friendly alternative to driving a car that’ll help you reduce your carbon footprint. Try biking around your neighborhood at a steady pace to start; once you feel more confident, hop on your bike to run errands or visit friends. Just don’t forget to wear a helmet.
Embrace Your Inner Child
While most of these activities are typically associated with children, they’re bound to have you feeling the burn. As a bonus, these exercises give you a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the upcoming spring weather. So, next time you’re feeling tired of your routine, relive your playground days and try one (or more!) of these nostalgic workouts — and let us know how it goes.