Familes enjoying a sunny afternoon in Exploratory Park, Brent Cross Town

PLAY in your park

Exploratory Park is now open for use from early morning till dusk, daily – just a 12-minute walk from Brent Cross tube station.

Claremont Way

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Familes enjoying a sunny afternoon in Exploratory Park, Brent Cross Town

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16 October 2020

The hidden power of social sports

Kids fun day in the park
Brent Cross Town will be full of ways to get active, whether you mean to or not.

Covid-19 is a moving picture: remember to check government guidelines and enjoy Exploratory Park and other green spaces safely.

When complete, these playing fields will be teeming with activities: classic ball games, of course, and alongside them emerging sports such as bouldering – that’s climbing where you don’t need a harness, just grab a rock and see how you do. But we’re also planning an often-overlooked ingredient to bring the recipe together. 

Picture this: you might not have planned it when you left the house this morning, but here you are, having a go at table tennis that you came across in Exploratory Park. This is the hidden power of playing with others: it’s easy to slip into. And Brent Cross Town will be full of ways to get active whether you mean to or not.

For social sports like boules or crazy golf, fun and connection are fundamental. And there’s even a growing body of evidence to suggest that getting active in a social setting has unique advantages. Researchers at the University of New England found that people who exercised in groups reported less stress and more mental health benefits than those who exercised alone. Working out with others also means you’re more likely to keep at it, concluded University College London; this study found that couples who embark on a journey towards being more healthy together are more likely to succeed than if they go it alone.

Girl on swing in the park
Kids fun day in the park
Left: Exploratory Park; right and top: last year’s Big Outdoors sports event on Clitterhouse Playing Fields

In a similar vein, a study from the University of Oxford found that group exercise, in this case rowing, released more endorphins compared to similarly intensive solo training. “This heightened effect from synchronised activity may explain the sense of euphoria experienced during other social activities (such as laughter, music-making and dancing) that are involved in social bonding in humans,” concluded the researchers. So the buzz really isn’t just about getting a sweat on, but also about being around other people.

Social sports are particularly important for people who don’t already have a traditional sport under their belts. We want people to be able to stumble upon activities and find themselves suddenly engaged without needing to buy the t-shirt. Everyone should have access to the community and health benefits that come with being active – and not to mention, it’s fun too.

Heath Harvey, Project Play Lead and the person behind the curation of this mix of sports and play facilities, will tell you: “Put a teqball table into a park and you’ll have a queue of teenagers right away.” Teqball is a mix of keepie-uppie and table tennis, if you can imagine it.

For kids, we’re planning fabulous play areas and perhaps a wet play splash-park too. For a more leisurely afternoon, boules and petanque are brilliant to encourage people of all generations to get together. Brent Cross Town will also have parkour, which is exercise for the mind as well as the body as you strategise on how to get from one point to the next in a complex environment. BMX and skateboarding are other options that are often hard to find in the city that we’d like to be able to incorporate too.

With 50 acres of parkland as well as indoor facilities, there will be room for everyone here. We hope you’ll come along and get active – and come across some things you never thought possible. For now, don’t forget to pop into Exploratory Park for a taste of things to come.

Having a go at climbing at Exploratory Park