12 Reasons to Love a Park Bench

February 18, 2013 in Medicine, Regular Updates, Uncategorized

Guest Blog by our member Nancercize:

Just the other day, someone asked me how I thought of the idea to use park benches as exercise equipment. There’s no simple answer, but clearly a starting point was my desire to help as many people as possible get more active in fun ways.  

jumping fun over a park bench

Although I’m a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor, with my livelihood depending on paying clients, I love saving money and using my imagination to make the most out of very little. I  encourage others to do so, too. (Must be my Dutch and German heritage!) As a public health professional, I’ve learned how difficult it is for many people to find the time to be more active–often money is an issue, and time as well, with parents especially feeling torn  between spending time on their own health and being with their families. Often, adults are advised to just walk a lot to satisfy their fitness requirements.  But after a while, just walking can get a tad boring… and it doesn’t begin to satisfy our need to strengthen our midriffs and upper bodies!

Sound  familiar? Miraculously, a simple park bench can help us get over all these fitness humps.

In my eight years of providing outdoor fitness programs in New York City Parks, I’ve discovered that many people who say they don’t like to exercise actually don’t like exercising in an indoor gym or health club. But almost everyone loves escaping the stuffy indoors for the fresh air and freedom of being out in a park. And once you’re there, you can take advantage of the park’s secret supply of exercise equipment–benches being my favorite in addition to walls, railings, curbs, and so on.

At a loss for ideas? No worries. I’ve created a free motivational 14-minute video that shows you how to use a park bench for strengthening exercisers such as push ups, dips, and leg lifts, as well as stretches that feel delicious. They’re all based on good old-fashioned calisthenics and yoga, with a little dance, pilates, and martial arts thrown in for variety. And, if you’d like detailed instructions for the exercises, they’re all in my book, “Nancercize: 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.” The great news is that kids love these exercises too–a local mom told me her toddler knows every one of them, and plays the video everyday!

Here are 12 reasons to make a park bench part of your fitness life:

1. They’re outdoors, and it’s healthier for us all to spend more time outdoors each day.

2. They can be used to make an exercise or stretch easier; for example, if you don’t have much strength in your upper body, you can still do push ups by placing your hands on the bench back (easiest) or seat. Women, you’ll be glad to earn you don’t need to get on your knees to manage a push up!

3. They can be used to make an exercise or stretch more intense; for example, make a push up more challenging by placing your feet on the bench seat and your hands on the ground.

4. They are free!

5. They are almost always available, unlike gym equipment.

6. They are easy to find and are often in playgrounds, so while your children play, so can you–on your own equipment!

7. Everyone–the whole family, regardless of ability–can so something on a park bench, from leaping over it to doing a gentle seated stretch.

8. Benches are versatile–unlike outdoor gym equipment, which is designed for one exercise with perhaps a few variatiomns.

9. Benches encourage creativity.

10. They often are placed where there’s a nice view.

11. They encourage group use and socializing.

12. You can sit down and take a rest when you’re through!

exercise on a park benchfamily play fun

By Nancy Bruning, MPH
Nancercize: the Benchmark in Outdoor Fitness and Natural Health
101 Things to Do on a Park Bench — video

2 responses to 12 Reasons to Love a Park Bench

  1. Good tips Nancy! It’s so necessary to help deprogram people from thinking that exercise is exclusively working out in a gym. When safe and attractive, the park can be a pleasurable place to be active. Love how you advocate using a bench and being creative.

  2. Thanks, Stephanie. Especially in urban areas, we need to think innovatively about using our spaces and resources.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.