Exercise Like a Kid: Why the Fun Stuff Is Really Good for You

Wellbeing Tips
June 13, 2019

Can tag, jumping rope, trampolining, and other kid-friendly activities have health benefits for adults? Our blogger decided to find out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gym rat…not even close. What could be worse than paying a ton of money to go to an overpriced sweatbox where you have to do a million boring reps on complicated machines that you have to get trained on? Okay, yes I have baggage, and yes I’m a little bitter at the guy who yelled at me for using the weight machine the wrong way that one time.
Anyway. I’d rather be outside. And I’m a firm believer in the idea that if an activity isn’t enjoyable, you won’t stick with it. I much prefer biking, walking, and just about any other fun, preferably outdoor, activity to going to the gym.
So I got curious…are activities that kids do for fun (and I’m not talking about Fortnite—that’s a separate post) actually good for you? I decided to dive into the science and find out. Let’s take a look.

1. Jump rope

I have fond memories of attempting to double-dutch with my friends in middle school. And when I took a boxing class a few years ago, one of the most fun parts (I mean, aside from hitting stuff, which is always fun) were the pre-workout jump rope sessions.
But it can’t be that good for you, right? Wrong. Jumping rope actually burns more calories than running—up to 1300 per hour! It also improves coordination and cardiovascular health, and even (allegedly) makes you smarter: “Jumping on the balls of your feet requires your body and mind to make neural muscular adjustments to imbalances created from continuous jumping.” Keep in mind that that comes courtesy of the Jump Rope Institute, which might be a bit biased. Another thing I learned? There’s something called a Jump Rope Institute.
And if you’re all “How about a primary source already, Tracy?”, how about this study from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, which showed significant improvement in BMI and pulmonary function in those who participated in dance music jump rope exercise vs. those who used a stationary cycle.
That’s it: I’m having a jump rope dance party and you’re all invited.

2. Trampolining

We have one of those SkyZone trampoline parks at our local mall, and I’ve been dying to try it out, but feeling a bit shy. Looks like I’ll need to get over it: Trampolining works out your core, abs, back, legs, glutes, and more. And according to a study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, it can help you lose weight and even improve your VO2 max. How cool is that?
Bonus fun: We went to the Big Apple Circus recently and you should check out their trampoline act, seriously. #goals

3. Roller skating

…And I’m not talking rollerblading, although if that’s your thing, go for it. I’m talking honest-to-God old-school roller skates that adults can still totally get even if you’re not in roller derby.
The benefits? Roller skating is a complete aerobic workout similar to jogging. It strengthens the heart and legs, builds endurance, and causes less stress to the joints than running.
Bonus fun: Here is a fun study from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness on the physical characteristics of different types of world-class male roller skaters. Spoiler alert: “Significant differences were found in waist girth, flexed arm, forearm and wrist girths between artistic roller freestyle and pairs skaters.” Man, I love science.
Bonus bonus fun, because I’m all about keeping you entertained on a boring work afternoon: Here is my all-time favorite roller skating story, with fantastic photos.

4. Swinging

Yes, as in swings on a playground. Lest you think they’re just for kids, swing set fitness is making a comeback for adults, too. You can use them to lose weight (it burns up to 200 calories an hour) and get stronger, and swinging conditions the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments to boot. I mean, probably as long as you don’t jump from 9 feet in the air (sorry, Mom).
And you can use swings for all kinds of other fitness exercises, too, so if you really MUST do reps, there you go.

5. Games

If there’s a game you enjoyed as a kid, chances are you can find an adult version of it. There are adult dodgeball leagues, adult kickball leagues, adult tag leagues, and even Quidditch leagues. I won’t go too much into the health benefits here, because they’re probably obvious, but yes, playing tag is a good form of cardiovascular exercise. And if leagues aren’t your thing, don’t worry: even juggling and yo-yo-ing are said to be good for you. Check out this study showing that juggling lowered depression among medical students preparing for exams.

So that’s it. I double-dog-dare you to bust out of the gym and do something fun!