Skip to content

Adult playgrounds – the theory of nudge

Getting adults to exercise more effectively these days looks like it's all down to nudge theory ...

I read about something I'd not come across today, and think it's one of the best ideas I've heard in a long while: adult playgrounds.

I should elaborate – fairly quickly before some of you get the wrong idea – that these are entirely healthy and innocent creations devoted to encouraging grown-ups to get some exercise.

We all remember taking our children down the local park, pushing them on the swings and hovering nervously while they hurtled down the slides (or edged down in bits, depending on the personality of the child – and what they were wearing).

But we all wanted a go. And a few of us dads quietly got on a swing while no-one was looking.

So, the adult playground simply transplants gym equipment and plonks it down in parks and play areas, giving adults a free workout. They've been popping up since 2007, and much of the inspiration has come from China where they are quite common.

The local authority leading the way is the London borough of Camden with nine outdoor gyms, and demand is growing.

And the driver behind this is something called "nudge theory" – the idea that we're all essentially a bit lazy and don't like being told what's good for us, and what we should do. However, if obstacles are quietly removed (eg gyms are too expensive), we can be gently nudged towards a choice that's good for us and good for society.

I wonder how nudge theory could be applied in a church setting? Or how it could encourage ordinary people to explore their spirituality more deeply? It's certainly getting me thinking ...

How about you?

Get more inspiring reading

To find back issues of the INSPIRE mini-mag - seasonal and themed issues - go to