The Importance of Play

Sunday, March 13, 2011 • Boise, ID 83703

As we age we forget how much fun it can be to get down on the ground and explore the world from different levels.  My son reminds me of this on a daily basis.  I know that many of you do not have toddlers, so you may be out of the hide and seek phase, but even as your kids age you can still engage in unstructured, creative movement.  When was the last time you moved just out of pleasure and pure joy?  Whether it is throwing on some music and dancing around singing into your broom or an impromptu game of Frisbee in the back yard, there are benefits to your health at any age.

As we get older, we tend to focus on structured, scheduled exercise, with movement so repetitious that we can do other things like watch TV or read a magazine while doing it.  Although, the repetition could be a form of meditation if we decided to be mindful of our movement, but that is a topic for another blog. The joy of play comes from being in a flow consciousness.  This requires us to be in the moment.  When you watch a child play they are always completely absorbed in what they are doing.  They never split their attention between lamenting over the past or creating anxieties about the future.  And for that reason alone, it has incredible health benefits.

Creative, playful movement also affects our physiology and mental well-being.  We live in a very structured, linear and logical world.  Play gives our minds a creative outlet, and has been positively associated with happiness and learned optimism, both states which lend themselves to better health outcomes.  Play centers are found in the most primitive areas of the brain, meaning that is has been a biological necessity since the very beginning of human development.  It also helps us cope with stress and we know that stress has vast physiological implications on all dimensions of our wellness.  From a more pragmatic stand-point, it can add to your daily caloric expenditure and help you lose weight.  Play is essential for the development of children, but don’t forget that it is also important for your development as an adult.  Take time out everyday to be silly and joyful, it is good for the body, mind and spirit.