Play for Your Health

She was mesmerized. Not only did this Frisbee throw with ease and speed, it lit up the night sky with flashing neon Technicolor. Claire didn’t want to stop playing.This fascinating new toy captivated her so that she never even realized she had been throwing it around, running and chasing this beautiful gadget for 15 minutes. She was like a child discovering a new toy. And she was discovering a new toy, but she is 32. The beauty of this scenario is not that a 32 year old could play with the Frisbee, but that the 32 year old could discover the joy of physical activity in an unstructured, playful way.

Watching my dear friend Claire, I realized something. When is the last time that most adults became mesmerized by a toy and just played? Throwing a Frisbee for the joy of watching a simple plate-like object spin in the air with grace and ease, only to chase it and reach to catch it in our hands. Jumping rope and singing songs just to capture the success of your endurance. Kicking a soccer ball around a big open field with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass enveloping you. Better yet, gathering your friends and family for a friendly game of soccer, or soccer baseball. What about joining hands and playing a rousing game of red rover?

Why is it that once we reach a certain age we feel this need to exercise in strictly serious, structured "adult” ways? As a personal trainer and fitness instructor I clearly see tremendous benefit to having a regular exercise program that has a balanced approach to cardiovascular training, muscular development, and flexibility. However, I also see the need to simply live an active lifestyle that includes play and unstructured movement. Play is good for your physical health as well as your mental well-being. According to a July 1999 Physchology Today article called ‘The Power of Play’, play is "crucial to our mental creativity, health and happiness.”

This fall why not organize a family BBQ and play day? Why not enjoy the last moments of summer playing in the surf with your kids? What about getting your office together for some fun and friendly competition? When the first rainfall arrives, why not grab a friend and do some good old puddle stomping? Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to explore the lighter side of physical activity through play. You’ll be amazed at the smile on your face and the fun you’ll have (to say nothing of the work out you’ll get)!