Spring and summer are much beloved seasons for Canadians as we can finally enjoy the great outdoors without having to put on 15 layers to keep warm. Mosquitoes and forest fires notwithstanding, warmer weather also means outdoor fitness opportunities abound. Combine that with the social activities with friends and family we’ve all been profoundly missing since the pandemic, and it’s a no-brainer: Summer Lawn Olympics 2023 here we come!
Lawn games can be a great social activity and can provide a workout along with eco-therapy for the entire family, no matter what your fitness level. And while you won’t see any of the games suggested here in the Paris 2024 summer Olympics other than badminton, why not put together a French-themed family event of your own or hold regular summer tournaments with the neighbours.
Canadian summer is short so we’ve curated our favourite lawn games so you can get to planning your event.
Axes are some of the oldest tools known to humans. However, it wasn’t until 400 to 500 AD that they started to be thrown as weapons. According to legend, the first axe throwing competitions were held by the frontiersmen in North America, but did you know that it was a Canadian who started the modern-day axe-throwing craze?
The modern version of the game is credited to Canadian Matt Wilson. He started a small league among friends in his Toronto backyard in the early 2000s, which spawned a new sport that many can enjoy, even in your own backyard – with modified, safe axes of course.
Much like cable exercises, throwing an axe can provide a great work out, with the following benefits:
- Improved hand-eye coordination: Axe throwing requires precise hand-eye coordination to accurately throw the axe and hit the target.
- Stress relief: Throwing an axe is an oddly satisfying activity that can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
- Full-body workout: Axe throwing is a full-body workout that involves a range of movements including arm and shoulder strength, core stability, and leg power.
- Fun and social activity: Axe throwing can be a fun and enjoyable activity to do with friends and family, providing an opportunity for connection. If done outdoors (our suggestion), you will also benefit from time spent in nature, which is beneficial for mental health.
Badminton is an elite Olympic sport but it’s also a great yard game that can deliver a fitness punch. At high levels of play, the sport is demanding; players require aerobic stamina, agility, strength, speed, and precision, good motor and hand to eye coordination.
The good news is that even total amateurs can enjoy a full-body workout while playing badminton. All you need is a bit of a yard, a net, racquets and shuttlecock. The benefits of playing badminton are far-reaching:
- Total Body Workout. You’ll find yourself lunging, diving, running and getting your heart pumping when playing badminton and you can expect to burn around 450 calories an hour. This lawn game provides a powerful cardio workout that engages the entire body, including the hamstrings, quads, arms, calves and your core.
- Flexibility and mobility. Badminton helps lubricate joints which helps to minimize the risk of arthritis and other joint issues.
- Accessible exercise for the whole family. All ages can enjoy badminton together, making for a bonding family and friends way to get exercise.
Tug of War
Tug of War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength: teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.
The origins of the game of Tug of War are ancient and undefinable as the game has been played for millennia, crossing cultures, geographies and rituals.
This non-contact sport was part of the Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1920. It’s a physical activity that requires strength, endurance, and teamwork and has a number of health benefits:
- Cardiovascular fitness: Tug of War is a high-intensity sport that requires a lot of physical effort that can help increase strength and endurance of the heart and lungs.
- Strength and power: The game requires the use of multiple muscle groups, including the legs, back, arms, and core which helps improve overall muscle tone and increase muscle mass.
- Coordination and balance: Tug of war requires players to coordinate their movements with those of their teammates, helping improve balance and coordination.
- Stress relief: Tug of war can be a good way to forget about everyday problems and focus on the present moment, which can help reduce anxiety and depression.
- Teamwork: Players must work together to succeed, which helps improve communication and teamwork skills.
Croquet started in the 13th century as a game played by French peasants, and it’s evolved to become a fun sport that people around the world enjoy. With a lawn, a mallet, a ball, and a few wickets, players can get together and have a fun time socializing and getting some light exercise.
While it might seem like a game with little to no health benefits, there are some you should consider:
- It gets your body moving. While not as physically intensive as an obstacle course or badminton, croquet nonetheless does offer health benefits. It’s a great way to get your body gently moving as it involves standing, walking and sustained movement.
- Mental health benefits. Getting outside to play a game with friends and family helps with reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Spending time outside in nature helps with anxiety and depression.
- Challenge your intellect. Croquet helps combine critical thinking skills, soft touch and precision as you maneuver through the wickets with physical activity.
Limbo dancing may be for the evening part of your yard Olympics, so find some Caribbean beats and prepare for some fun. The limbo developed in Trinidad as an event that took place at funerals but is suspected to have its origins on slaving ships as the extremely limited space forced people to squeeze through tight spaces to find their friends and family members.
While no one in your entourage will likely achieve the Guinness record of 8.5 inches off the ground, the fitness skills required to dance the limbo are significant. They include:
- Leg strength: Glutes, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings all get a super intensive workout
- Core strength
- Low back flexibility
Whether you’re looking for a light workout, some fun social time or you’re looking to get fit, yard games have a lot to offer.
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