"Play" Can Be Healthful, Fun Alternative To Typical Exercise
Carol Torgan, Ph.D., FACSM, says the type of calorie-burning, mind-stimulating play that children often do shouldn't be left behind as people age. Tossing a Frisbee, dancing and rock climbing are great ways for adults to incorporate play into their exercise routines. According to the ACSM-published Compendium of Physical Activities, dancing can burn up to 322 calories an hour for a 150-pound person.
But beyond the fitness advantages these fun-filled activities offer, they can also help with problem solving, improve brain function, spur creativity and innovation, alleviate stress, and improve social skills. These are attributes that carry over into all aspects for adults, from the bedroom to the boardroom.
"Whether it's shooting hoops or even playing on a teeter-totter with a friend, these unstructured activities can create a sense of belonging and community," Torgan said. "The need for play may be hard-wired in our brains and appears to be as basic as sleep. We never outgrow it."
She says that too often, though, adults view play as something only for kids. For many adults, the idea of "play" can be intimidating or seem like a waste of time.
"The 'power of play' for adults lies in simply focusing on the joy of moving, having a little fun with it, and not taking ourselves too seriously," Torgan said. "Play has no obvious goal, and has no winners or losers, unlike the dodge ball games of our youth. It's the perfect anecdote for when your exercise routine starts to feel like more of a chore than an activity of enjoyment."
Lack of accessibility to playgrounds, parks and green space can also hinder the ability to play. Torgan says today's focus on passive environments - like television watching and computer game-playing, which don't involve direct social or physical interaction and don't engage our senses or creativity - are not conducive to play.
To "rediscover your inner child," she says, adults can try simple play activities, like taking an outdoor walk and stopping to smell the flowers, running through a sprinkler, or designing a family "playcation."
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
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