10 things to do in a park this summer
Summer is the perfect time to get your friends and family to the park and get active with outdoor fun and games. We've hunted down ten of the best activities to do in your local park.
There are around 27,000 parks and green spaces in the UK, so wherever you are, there’s probably one close by. These spaces are ideal for free or low-cost physical activities, for all ages and fitness levels. It’s recommended that you do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, which will help control your weight and reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Here are our top ten park activities to try this summer.
1. Outdoor gyms
A growing number of parks and green spaces have free-to-use gym equipment like pull-up bars, step-ups, static bikes and parallel bars. The main UK supplier of outdoor gyms has installed more than 500 across the UK in the past 10 years. You might also be interested in ‘Green Gyms’ run by The Conservation Volunteers. They give you the opportunity to work up a sweat digging, planting or path-clearing at 95 sites around the UK. There are sessions for all fitness levels, no previous gardening experience is necessary and it’s free. Get more information from The Conservation Volunteers or call 020 3794 8022.
In France, where the game comes from, boules is usually played on a gravel court – but it’s just as fun on grass. This low-intensity activity involves throwing, bending and walking. You’ll need boules, a ‘jack’ to aim for – and perhaps a tape measure to avoid arguments! For about £5 you can buy a basic plastic boules set, which should come with instructions.
3. Cricket and rounders
Both games can be improvised without too much equipment and are a great group activity for people of all abilities. French cricket is particularly easy to play without a pitch – it’s usually played with a tennis ball, one batter at a time, and the batter’s legs act as the wicket. Get family or friends together for a match, or contact your local council to see if they have information about rounders or cricket in your local parks.
4. Walking, jogging and running
Walking is a free and easy way to get active, lose weight and improve your heart health. Where better to do it than surrounded by the flowers, trees and birdsong of your local park? For those craving a challenge, Parkruns are free, weekly 5K timed runs held in parks all around the UK. Running with others can be motivating, while going it alone can be a chance to clear your mind.
5. Tennis and badminton
Hard or grass tennis courts are available for hire at many parks, and for free at some - visit Tennis For Free or ask your local council. Short tennis (a smaller, slower-paced version of tennis) or soft tennis (played with rubber balls) are good ways to introduce children to the sport. Badminton is another popular racket sport – though it’s tricky on windy days! A basic set of rackets and shuttlecocks costs around £10. A fold-up net costs from £30, or you can play without one.
6. Rowing boats
Many parks with lakes offer the chance to take up oars, while others have canoeing, sailing and pedalos for hire at varying prices. Most people find trying to row in a straight line is enough to work up a sweat, and some light rowing is great for thighs, bottoms, pecs and biceps. Even a pedalo counts towards your 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity – you just need to pedal hard enough that you’re breathing a bit faster and feel a bit warmer, but can still have a conversation.
7. Yoga, tai chi, pilates and other classes
These focus on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. Join a class that’s suitable for your fitness level – speak to the class organiser to find out. At the gentle end, classes might not count towards your 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, but they can make up one of the two strength sessions it’s recommended we do per week. All you need is clothing that allows you to move easily, and perhaps a mat. Some classes are free. If you’re in London or East Anglia, visit Our Parks. Elsewhere, check the park noticeboard or if you spot a class taking place, why not approach the organiser to find out more? Alternatively, learn the basics at home and use your local park as a great place to practise.
Possibly the most underrated park pleasure. At its simplest it involves nothing more than throwing and catching – the amount of running you do is down to you and the skill of the people you’re playing with! You just need a friend or two, and a frisbee, which can cost less than £2. Or work up more of a sweat with Ultimate – a team version of frisbee. Visit UK Ultimate to find a team or learn the rules, or call 0844 804 5949.
Played with a super-light ball, this is a fantastic team sport for all ages and abilities. It’s easy to improvise on the grass – just mark out a court with some jumpers or bags. Any kind of ball will do so long as it’s light – cheap beach balls are a good way to start. If you want a net, fold-up ones (also suitable for badminton) can be less than £30. Learn more or find a club at volleyballengland.org or call 01509 227722.
All you really need to play is a ball (less than £2 for a lighter plastic one) – and the proverbial ‘jumpers for goalposts’. How fit you need to be depends on who you’re playing with and the size of your pitch. Walking football is a good alternative if you want to get active in a more gentle way.