Why a picnic is the perfect outdoor physical activity

Let’s play a quick round of word association. Ready? We say picnic. You say…Basket? Blanket? Bread? Cheese, cold cuts, sliced watermelon and salads? No doubt about it: picnicking is centred on food. 

But it’s also about family and friends, and green spaces like backyards, school yards, parks, meadows, forest floors and lookout points lined with picnic tables. These outdoor spaces are ripe for physical activities, and we have some on offer. 

The next time you’re looking for an outdoor activity you can do with your family and friends, stuff this picnic play list into your back pocket – and head out to greener pastures. 

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1. A circus of circuits 

Whether you’re at a park with a gym apparatus or in your own backyard, do a round of circuits. Try sprinting to the jungle gym, one minute of climbing and shooting down the slide, a 15-second flexed-arm hang on the monkey bars or timed sit-ups, burpees, jumping jacks. Tip: Have one person timing and another tracking the results. The participant with the best overall score gets crowned winner. 

2. Use your noodle 

Tic-tac-toe with pool noodles. Lay out four noodles (widely available at large department and grocery stores) in the shape of a tic-tac-toe board. Give each player their own coloured bean bags to toss into the squares with the goal of getting three in a row. Tip: weave the noodles to “lock” them into place.

3. A blast with blankets 

This game is guaranteed to get the heart pumping and belly muscles aching from hysterical laughing. Organize into teams of two – one is the “sitter,” the other is the “puller.” The sitter literally sits on a blanket spread on the ground. The puller stands, facing their teammate, with one corner of the extended blanket in their hand. All teams begin at the starting line and when you hear ‘Go!” – the pullers shore up their cores, activate those quads and… pull! The sitters need to use core muscles, too, to stay upright and balanced. The first team to cross the finish line with the sitter still planted on their blanket, wins! Tip: Use old blankets that you don’t mind getting grass stained or ripped! 

4. Freeze tag with a twist 

Give each participant a (literally) frozen, folded tee-shirt, which you prepare ahead of time by soaking, folding and freezing. Once frozen, the t-shirt will be a solid block. The object of the game is to unfold your frozen tee first – not an easy task! You’ll need to get creative to work some flexibility back into the shirt. This is a refreshing activity on those sweltering, humid days. Tip: Ask everyone to slip on their chilled tees and then suggest an old-fashioned game of freeze tag.  

5. Glow-in-the-dark capture the flag

You probably played this game with your neighbourhood pals. You need: two teams of at least four per team, two flags and lots of space for running. The goal is to grab the opposing team's hidden flag and bring it back to your side for the win. If you get tagged in “enemy” territory you go to “jail” where you can watch (and chirp) for the rest of the game. 

This version is the same, except it’s played in the evening, and instead of flags, you use glow sticks. Choose two different coloured glow sticks (one per team) and to clearly allocate team members, wear glow bracelets in colours matching the sticks. Tip: Only activate your sticks when you’re set up and ready to play to ensure they last the entire time.