Do you think your kids get to have all the backyard fun?! Did you know that for adults, time on the swing can be a huge stress reliever by helping improve range of motion, raising heart rate, increasing circulation, releasing endorphins (not much compares to the feeling of flying!), and by its rhythmic, repetitive quality providing for a kind of meditation that gives you a mental holiday? These ideas to get you up and out into the wide blue yonder will do wonders for body and mind.
First, who doesn’t have the most pleasant memories of swinging. Closing your eyes, can you hear the squeak, feel the chain in your hands, and remember the back and forth motion of the swings in your old neighborhood park, playground or school yard? Was your favorite swing part of a larger set in your own yard, or maybe it was in the form of an old tire suspended from a giant oak near a lake that cooled you in summer.
In Montreal, Canadian Design Collective Daily Tous Les Jours recognized the joy of swinging when the firm designed a public installation of interactive musical swings, 21 Balancoires (21 Swings) . Sounds from a xylophone, piano and other instruments were programmed into color-coded swings that, when used by children and adults alike, play various notes. When swung in unison, according to the description, more evolved melodies are possible. No absence of joy in that!
Whatever your fondest memory, as busy, overwhelmed, working-and-kid-raising adults, often we lack the time and energy to trek to the gym. According to health experts, availing yourself of something as simple as a swing, right in your own backyard, by its very nature increases the intake of air to your lungs which in turn stimulates brain function. We feel more alert. Being out in the sunlight (in moderation) also has beneficial effects, as those who find themselves stuck behind a desk or other place of business, or inside the home for weeks on end, begin to lack essential sun-produced vitamins like vitamin D.
Using legs to pump in and out (remember when your mother told you to slow it down — you were pumping too fast and going too high?!) aids in circulation and is a form of aerobic exercise, which burns calories. In fact swinging is reported to burn 200 calories an hour. Sustained aerobic activity also reduces stress and provides for better sleep, and the rhythmic nature of swinging can also result in a gentle, soothing, lulling effect — much like being in a rocking chair.
If you want to ratchet up the benefits of being on a swing a step or two higher, fitness professionals also suggest using it to strengthen abdominal muscles. Simply sit on the seat, grip the chains and draw up your knees to your chest. Hold for a count of 12 (or work up to it) and release. Do two more sets or more, if you can.
In another exercise, lean back as far as you can in the swing, feet on the ground and legs straight. Bend knees up and straighten again. You can also use the swing to do a form of pull-ups, where you grip the chains, tighten your legs, abdominals, and lower body, and simply pull yourself up (this can be done with knees bent or legs extended). Remember especially to tighten your abs here, too, as core strength allows the body to achieve so much more. Do as many times as possible, rest, and do some more. Great for arms, shoulders, and abs.
Whether you use the swing traditionally or augment it with some additional fitness ideas (above), a little swing therapy can do wonders for body and mind. The next time you see your children having all the fun, why not pursue some fun and fitness time for yourself out there as well. The sky’s the limit!