Illustration of a group of people playing Pétanque, a game similar to Bocce

Summer camp throwback

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Whether it’s a day program in town or a week-long adventure in a shared cabin by a lake, there’s no question summer camp opens up a world of possibilities, learning and growth.

Sure, camp and kids go hand in hand, but with a little planning and a group of compatriots, grown-ups can get in on the fun, too, by creating a custom camp experience that makes being active a social event. Just like camp!

“Summer camp activities are a great idea for the 50-plus population,” says senior fitness specialist Beth Oldfield. “While this age group benefits from activities that support brain health, balance, core strength and agility, sometimes it’s just about getting out of the house to do something fun.”

So make a coffee date with your friends, chat about activities you’d all like to do together, and sign up for your bespoke summer camp.

To kick off the planning, here are five fun activities worth considering.


Pétanque, a trendy new game, originated in France and is popular in Quebec. The game is played in teams of one to three players, who toss or roll orange-sized metal “boules” as close as possible to a smaller wooden target called a “jack.” Points are awarded to balls closest to the jack. “It’s a perfect summer game best played outside with a refreshing drink in hand,” says Florian Caffiner, a Toronto-based pétanque aficionado. The game can be played in a public park; you just need a solid surface like hard sand or small gravel.

Getting started: Search for a pétanque group online (like the Toronto Facebook group). Borrow boules from players, or purchase your own equipment from a sporting goods store such as

Illustration of a group of people doing water workouts in a pool
Illustrations by Jori Bolton

Water workouts

Working out in water is a gentle — and highly effective — form of exercise, says Charlene Kopansky, founder of the Canadian Aquafitness Leaders Alliance (CALA). Aquafitness classes improve cardiovascular fitness and strength, balance, flexibility and coordination. “The water supports the body, so there’s less impact on joints,” Kopansky says. “You can do it with feet touching the bottom or wear a flotation device for no impact at all.” Water workouts are recommended for everyone, including those who are mobility-challenged or have joint issues like arthritis.

Getting started: Contact CALA ( for CALA-certified classes in your area; check for local municipally run classes. If your apartment or condo has a pool, consider engaging an instructor and getting permission to hold classes there.


Essentrics is a joyful full-body stretching and strengthening workout program with flowing circular movements and elements of ballet, tai chi and physiotherapy. “Classes help to decompress joints, lengthen muscles and improve posture,” says Oldfield, who is a certified Essentrics instructor. Beginners might want to start with the Aging Backwards program, says Oldfield, because its moves are less complex.

Getting started: Search for an Essentrics stretch class near you at; check local parks and rec programs.


Qigong is an ancient system of self-care and healing often practised in parks during the summer. The practice combines meditation with slow, low-impact moves and stretching, explains Ottawa-based master instructor Philip Lai. There’s also a focus on breath work to manage the flow of energy in the body. The practice is empowering and helps increase energy and reduce stress. It is recommended for everyone, including those with mobility and other health issues.

Getting started: Search for “Qigong near me” or look for municipally run qigong classes. Philip Lai Qi Gong Association in Ottawa ( provides online classes and can suggest trained instructors throughout Canada.


Zumba is an exercise class that combines Latin and international music with lots of body movement. Routines alternate fast and slow rhythms to help improve cardiovascular fitness — and your dance moves. If you’d like to start slow, consider Zumba Gold. The lower-intensity version is designed to protect joints and muscles while still raising the heart rate and improving balance, posture, memory and coordination.

Getting started: Use the “Find a Class” button at; check your local YMCA/YWCA or parks and rec programs.

Choosing a summer camp activity

  • Convenient location and start time
  • Addresses personal fitness and health goals
  • Safe activity (the instructor is certified by a reputable organization)
  • Accommodates your fitness level
  • Comfortable environment (including music you like)
  • Something you enjoy
  • Opportunity for social time afterwards
Illustration of a neatly packed suitcase

What to pack for summer camp

  • Proper footwear
  • Comfortable, breathable clothing
  • Hat with brim
  • Sunscreen with high SPF
  • Water
  • Packed lunch or snack
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