Local fitness guru Nancy Bruning is working with a filmmaker
to develop an exercise video called “101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.”
PHOTO: Amala Lane
by Nancy Bruning
If you had walked through Fort Tryon Park on a sunny but blustery day in October, you would have seen a startling and amusing sight: a team of fit and attractive people doing everything but sitting quietly on park benches. Filmmaker Amala Lane, six fitness instructors, and yours truly were giggling it up shooting footage for the video “101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.” The video project is the Fort Tryon Park Trust’s latest effort to increase awareness of what’s possible in Northern Manhattan’s most gorgeous park.
Park benches are my favorite piece of “exercise equipment.” They are available in most parks, are free, and take only a bit of ingenuity and creativity, coupled with your own body weight, to make them work for you as a green gym. Unlike other types of fancy outdoor exercise equipment, park benches can still be used for sitting and relaxing. When they aren’t being used for exercise, they are still handy items for people of all ages and abilities. They are much more attractive than “single-purpose” exercise equipment, whether you’re sitting in them or just passing by them. And, in these times of constrained budgets, they cost nothing extra in the city’s budget.
Although the final video isn’t quite ready yet, there’s no reason you can’t get the jump on the concept and use park benches to your health advantage. A few strengthening and stretching exercises are the perfect complement to any walking, jogging, or bicycling program. Such endurance or aerobic exercises do a great job on our hearts, lungs, and legs, but little or nothing for our upper bodies – chest, arms, shoulders, back, abdomen and core muscles. Women especially need to pay attention to their upper bodies – who likes the idea of having the posture of a question mark, needing a cab for getting home with the groceries, or asking some guy to open your jar of peanut butter or bottle of champagne?
The video is actually an extension of the Fitness Alfresco Walking Program I’ve been leading for over six years in Fort Tryon Park; it continues year-round and everyone is welcome to participate. You can also get a sampling of bench exercises in the pamphlet “Let’s Get Moving—A Fitness Guide to Fort Tryon Park.” (For more information about these free resources, as well as news of the video, see the Fort Tryon Trust web site, below).
In the meantime, do some “dips” – one of the most effective exercises for toning the upper body, especially the back of your arms. To try it at home, substitute a chair (with the back placed against the wall for stability) for the park bench.
- Sit on the bench, hands on either side of your hips, feet spread hip width apart. To begin, slide your hips off the bench, keeping your torso tall and straight.
- Keeping your elbows tucked against your sides, bend your arms to dip your buttocks towards the ground – not too far!
- To return to starting position, press up, straightening your arms without locking your elbows.
- Repeat 8 to 12 times to start, gradually increasing the number of repetitions.
I promise – your arms and your concept of park benches will never be the same!
For information about the Fitness Alfresco Walking Program, “Let’s Get Moving” or “101 Things to Do on a Park Bench,” visit www.FortTryonParkTrust.org or call 212-795-1388 Ext. 305.
Nancy Bruning has a master’s degree in public health, is a certified personal trainer, and is the author or co-author of over 25 books on health and fitness. She also is the Chair of the Friends Committee of the Fort Tryon Part Trust and leads outdoor fitness experiences and weight loss workshops. Visit Nancy’s web site at www.NancyBruning.net, hear her at www.blogtalkradio.com/Nancercize, or email her at