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The Health Benefits of Play

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Remember the days of playing catch, throwing frisbees and just running around having fun like a kid?Well, these exercises are good for you even today. Unstructured, creative, and spontaneous physical activities that may be reminiscent of child-like play are beneficial, healthy activity options for adults according to a lecture at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Atlanta.

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.”

“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.”

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.”

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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