The MountMitte climber's paradise in Berlin.
Courtesy MountMitte The MountMitte climber's paradise in Berlin.

For parents who long for the days when kids played outside all summer rather than stay indoors staring at a screen, architecture has a secret weapon that can entice children to get some much-needed exercise.

The parkour, or freestyle, movement is a sport that invites kids and adults alike to treat the city as a gymnasium. Parkour’s growing popularity has inspired the construction of some formidable playgrounds. One impressive example is MountMitte, a freestyle mecca located in the trendy Mitte neighborhood of Berlin. MountMitte is an urban playground on steroids—a three-dimensional obstacle course complete with zip lines, barrel runs, and suspended cars that climbers can enter high above the ground. One look at this climbing pleasure-dome and even the most sedentary teen will get a twinkle in his or her eye.

MountMitte provides a compelling demonstration of design’s underutilized potential to motivate exercise and healthy lifestyles. If the same thinking that brought this urban playground to life could be injected into every neighborhood, we might have a fighting chance against obesity and other inactivity-related health problems.