Adult Playgrounds Are Here & They’re Changing Mental Health For Good
Stop whining about “adulting” and get your ass outside.
The advent of extreme fitness regimens like CrossFit and shows like “American Ninja Warrior” opened the door to an unexpected discovery: Americans really like to climb on shit.
And now, grown-up Chicago residents are able to do just that. Earlier this month, the Chicago Park District opened the Burnham Park Outdoor Fitness Station, an adult playground located near the South Side. The playground is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Chicago Plays” initiative, which launched in 2011.
The new Chicago structure is far from the first adult playground: similar parks exist in the Bronx, Miami, San Antonio and Los Angeles. Burnham Park was inspired by Venice’s own Muscle Beach gym.
There are numerous reasons to get up and take advantage of the free outdoor space. Studies have shown that people who exercise outside are more likely to workout again than people who only workout at the gym. Research from the University of Essex found that the color green inherent in nature can make exercise feel easier for participants.
And even if all you want to do is climb on top of the monkey bars and contemplate the futility of life, there are benefits to that as well. Spending time outside can improve both your focus and concentration. A 20-minute walk has been proven to make you feel as alert as one cup of coffee. People who spend time in nature usually feel younger longer and have lower levels of stress. If you haven’t already, you should go outside to finish the rest of this article.
But the best part about adult playgrounds is the renewed focus on play. We’re taught at a young age that it’s important for kids to get out and play: it makes them more creative, imaginative, improves their dexterity and gives them improved physical, mental and emotional strength. But play is just as important for adults as it is for kids. Through play, adults are able to connect socially—and games can enhance our romantic relationships! Play also gives our brains a reason to keep functioning at a high level and can potentially lower our risk for degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.
And the best part of play is that it’s unique to the person participating. For some, play might come in a structured game form, like chess or poker. For others, play might mean knitting a blanket or doing yoga.
As Dr. Stuart Brown, the head of the National Institute for Play tells NPR:
“Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”
Your heard it here first, folks. Play on, player.