Do you remember recess? That break in the monotonous school day when you could run wild and free, lost in playful movement? The glory of the playground lingers in many of your participants’ memories, too, and you can help to recreate that experience by taking your next class a little less seriously.

Turning the group fitness studio into a playground is a great idea for stressed-out, time-crunched, social media-weary adults who need a break from responsibility. So grab a whistle, cue the bell and get ready to inject some fun into everyone’s day!

The Playground Details

FORMAT: strength and cardio conditioning

TOTAL TIME: approximately 1 hour

GOAL/EMPHASIS: total-body exercise with an emphasis on core strength

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Use what you have and your creativity! For this particular class, I use hoops, Hippity Hop balls, Gliding discs (as Frisbee discs), the mini 4-pound Body Bar®, Lebert EQualizer® bars, Just Jump it® Skipper toys, the Bender Ball and jump ropes.

MUSIC: Choose a fun beat and a moderate tempo—nothing too fast. It’s also nice to have random, upbeat music that you don’t necessarily have to follow along with.


  • Know your audience and ask about injuries or contraindications.
  • Advise participants to wear cross-trainer shoes.
  • Modify as needed. For example, instead of racing on stability balls, have people hop in place.
  • Encourage everyone to drink a lot of fluids.

Warmup (8–10 minutes)

When you were a kid, you could just open the door and run out to play without warming up. That is no longer the case! Program classic dynamic exercises to get class ready for recess. Start with an easy jog in place and then cue the following:

  • low-impact jumping jacks
  • low-intensity jump rope drills
  • arm circles
  • torso twists
  • squats
  • walk-out planks

To really elicit childhood enthusiasm, have participants skip around the room! When was the last time you just skipped for no reason? Some adults don’t even remember how to skip. Be prepared to hear some laughter as skipping around the room lightens the mood and puts everyone in a more gregarious frame of mind.

Work Phase (40 minutes)

Spend about 5 minutes on each piece of equipment and use the transitions between stations for recovery.

Freestyle Hula Hoop® play. Using a hoop gives the transversus abdominis a unique workout. We tend to lose hip rotation ability as we age, thanks in part to spending too much time sitting down. Bigger hoops are easier for those who haven’t tried this since the Nixon era. Have participants go in one direction for 30-60 seconds and then repeat in the other direction. Allow for a little freestyle action, and tell people to change foot stance regularly.

Hippity-hop race. My participants love Hippity Hop balls because they really do bounce them back to a simpler time. Feel free to substitute stability balls. Simply pair students up and have them “race” down the studio. This boosts camaraderie while raising heart rates, not to mention exercising the adductors and the core.

Disk Frisbee. Use fabric Gliding discs here, if available. Otherwise, use regular Frisbee discs. Break the class into groups of three or five and have them work on their Frisbee skills. That’s it! Add a twist by asking people to use their nondominant hand.

At bat with bars! In this core and upper-body powerhouse move, participants hold the Body Bar like a baseball bat and practice swinging it as if they were hitting a baseball. Emphasize the importance of good rotation and follow-through, and make sure participants lift the back heel to avoid knee torque. Switch sides at the halfway mark.

Monkey bars. Use the EQualizer tools like monkey bars, but stay close to the ground. Have participants lie supine on a mat underneath and do plank pullups with isometric holds. If people are game, let the holds be a friendly competition.

For more exercise ideas and cool-down, please see “Sample Class: The Playground” in the online IDEA Library or in the October 2018 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.