As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, it can be a great time to take your workout outdoors. But some days, you may feel more like playing and socializing than actually exercising. And that’s good news because you can combine playtime and fitness together with yard games that double as effective workouts.
The best part? You’ll be having so much fun, you won’t want the “workout” to end.
Why should you add yard games to your fitness routine?
If you think yard games couldn’t possibly count as exercise, think again. “Playing these games helps you focus on the fun and competition and not focus on actually exercising,” explains certified personal trainer Sabrina A. Sarabella, MS.
And if you have ever caught yourself staring at the clock and counting down the minutes until your workout would end, you understand why this matters. When you are having a good time, you don’t want the fun to end. And that means you may move your body for longer periods of time than a standard workout while looking forward to the next time you can do it again.
Not every yard game provides an effective workout, but quite a few do. We asked top fitness experts to share their favorites and explain how they can be used to supplement your normal exercise routine. Here are their top recommendations:
Spikeball. Spikeball, also called roundness, is a game that involves a small ball, a net that lays horizontally on the ground like a trampoline, and two teams of two players. With rules similar to volleyball, each team attempts to pass the ball back and forth before spiking it back to the net. If they fail, the opposing team scores.
The sudden movements and quick pace of the game help to make it an effective workout. “Spikeball is great for your core because of the quick movements you need to make to hit the ball. It also involves some diving to get that perfect shot, so it can raise your heart rate and require a full-body workout,” shares Sarabella.
Red Rover. The classic yard game Red Rover can be a great way to add movement to your day with no equipment required. “This yard game serves as an aerobic and dynamic workout for toning and shaping your arms and legs,” explains Lacey Dunn, MS, RD, LD, CPT, and author of The Women’s Guide to Hormonal Harmony.
To play, players break into two teams and form a line opposing each other while holding hands. Each team takes a turn calling an opposing player over who then attempts to “break” the other team’s chain.
The combination of sprinting and using brute force to break into the chain can challenge all of your major muscle groups. And if you want to take the fitness level of this game up a notch, try adding an extra spin to it. “If the player called over doesn’t break the chain, they get to do 10 burpees,” adds Dunn.
Whiffle ball. If you want a fun game the whole family can do together, try whiffle ball. Played just like baseball, but with a lighter bat and ball, the combination of pitching, swinging, and running can work your whole body.
“Whiffle ball uses numerous different muscle groups like your arms and core while running to get on base uses your full body to sprint as fast as you can, elevating your heart rate,” shares Sarabella. If you want to increase the intensity of your workout, try adding a fun spin to the traditional game. For instance, when you get to the base, do ten jumping jacks or if you strike out, drop down and do ten push-ups. The variations are limitless and allow you to make the game as challenging as you want.
Tag. If you’re looking for a yard game that even the youngest family member can play, try Tag. This game can be played with two or more players and requires no equipment. To play, select one player to be “it” and you are ready to start. The player who is “it” chases down the other players trying to tag them. And once you get tagged, you now become “it” and the game starts all over again. Not only is this game easy to understand and play, but it can provide a quality workout as well.
“The running—or sprinting depending on how you play—in Tag provides a cardio workout, while the crouching to hide provides a lower body workout as well,” shares nutrition and fitness expert Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT of Shaw’s Simple Swaps.
No matter which you choose, incorporating yard games is a great way to add variety and fun to your workout. And when you are having fun, it becomes much easier to stay consistent with your exercise routine.