When was the last time you played? I’m not talking about video games. When was the last time you went out with no schedule, no rules, and just moved for fun?
Before you start rolling your eyes, consider the epidemic of chronic stress we are collectively experiencing.
There is a ton of research on the benefits of play for children. This research points to a multitude of benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function such as creativity and problem solving, to physical, social and emotional benefits.
From an evolutionary perspective, the role of play was to hone skills such as hunting and gathering, building, and socializing. Play is a no-brainer for kids, but what about us grown-ups?
Though there hasn’t been as much research on whether these benefits apply to adults, it’s not a stretch to imagine that taking time out to play might help stressed-out adults, too.
Many of us spend most of our waking hours at work, often working overtime, only to spend those last precious hours of the day on the couch in front of a computer or the television. If we’re lucky, we might get a couple of hours a week at the gym or a few minutes outside walking the dog.
Many of us might even feel guilty at the thought of doing something simply for pleasure. We see this dedication to hard work at the expense of play as a kind of act of martyrdom, relegating play to the back burner as soon as real life gets in the way.
What if adult play wasn’t just a luxury but a necessity for long-term health? What if embracing play allowed us to reach a new level of fitness and claim a better quality of life? By decreasing stress, we get more out of everything we do in life. We hone our ability to live in the moment, to connect better with those around us, and find more fun in simple, everyday pleasures.
I was hoping to give you a few instructions on playing, but the fact is that as soon as you introduce structure and rules, you lose a bit of the magic. Play is, by its very nature, spontaneous, so anything goes. There is value in discovering your own specific brand of play.
You might want to go jump in puddles or climb trees. Most of us gravitate toward things we are good at, but play can take many forms. I personally think swinging and hanging upside down is fun, so I recently took an aerial dance class, which is a circus art involving hanging from long silks attached to the ceiling.
Not only did this provide an outlet for me, making the decision to do something for myself was empowering. Instead of seeing play as a waste of time or a guilty pleasure, go ahead and invest in your health by indulging in play.
Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com.