Unstructured, creative, and spontaneous physical activities that may be reminiscent of child-like play are beneficial, healthy activity options for adults, according to an expert at the American College of Sports Medicine
According to the report, the type of calorie-burning, mind-stimulating play that children often do shouldn’t be left behind as people age.
Tossing a Frisbee, tenpin bowling, dancing and rock climbing are great ways for adults to incorporate play into their exercise routines – dancing alone can burn up to 322 calories an hour for a 10 stone 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.
Carol Torgan, one of the researchers said “Whether it’s shooting a few basketball hoops or even playing on a see-saw with a friend, these unstructured activities can create a sense of belonging and community.”
“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.