Fitness in Disguise

Easy outdoor games to get the whole family moving.

By Kellee Katagi

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As a mom, I’m not above sneaking nutrition into my kids’ diets—blending flaxseed into smoothies or cauliflower into mashed potatoes, for example (shhh, don’t tell). I’m also a big fan of what I call bonus fitness, which are games and activities that get us all moving without seeming like a workout. For adults, these activities shouldn’t be a total substitute for scheduled workouts (hence the term bonus), but they’re a fun way to add a little exercise spice to your life.

There’s no more natural time for bonus fitness than summer, when we gravitate to the outdoors. It’s the time we play catch in the yard, ride bikes to the park and walk the dog. It’s also the season of barbecues and outdoor gatherings, which are a perfect opportunity to work in some bonus fitness. Set up these simple but lively lawn games at your next picnic, making it a time for everyone from grandparents to young kids to not just take in calories but to expend a few, too.

Disc Bash

This is my new fave—and it’s so simple it makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself and make a bunch of money. Essentially, you toss a plastic disc at what looks like a garbage can and score points based on where it hits. The twist: Your partner stands near the can and may knock the disc into the can if it’s flying off target. It comes in a variety of brands, including KanJam and Disc Slam, but Disc Bash is my favorite because it folds down into an easily portable carrying case. Check it out here.


Played 2-on-2, Spikeball is a fast-moving game that is a bit like volleyball, except instead of hitting the ball over a net, you bounce it on a mini-trampoline. The more you improve, the more athletic the game becomes. Watch the pros play at, but don’t get intimidated—mere mortals can play, too.

Speed Croquet

Put an active twist on this traditional favorite: Take turns getting through the first two wickets; then once everyone’s through, you all go at once, trying to be the first to complete the course. Competitive families may want to employ a referee to keep the peace. I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).

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