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5 Urban Alternatives to the Gym

Pick-up Games

Remember when you played sports on the school playground? Without the benefit of bases or goalposts, you improvised with rocks, trees, backpacks or other objects. Now that you're all grown up, why not organize some pick-up games and do the same thing?

In urban areas, parks are the best place to play sports because they offer large expanses of green grass in an otherwise concrete environment. Find a nice open space in one of these public areas, invite a bunch of friends and pick a sport. A simple set of orange cones can mark goalposts on a soccer field, bases on a baseball diamond, or endzones on a flag football or ultimate Frisbee field. If the park has dedicated facilities for a sport, like basketball, tennis, or volleyball, by all means use those as well. The games don't have to stop in the winter; if you live somewhere cold, locate a nearby park with a skating rink and play some hockey.

The health benefits of playing these sports are tremendous. Take this list, which shows how many calories a 160-pound (73-kilogram) person would burn when playing each sport for an hour [source: Mayo Clinic]:

  • Basketball: 584 calories
  • Flag football: 584 calories
  • Ice Skating: 511 calories
  • Softball or baseball: 365 calories
  • Tennis: 584 calories
  • Volleyball: 292 calories

Clearly, sports are a great workout, but you'll be having so much fun you probably won't even notice.