Physical play? Yeah play. You know those times when you do something that is a completely unstructured activity that is largely spent exploring, experimenting, having fun, and trying new things. Just like you did as a kid in your backyard.
That's for children.
I am to old for that kind of stuff.
I have more important things to do.
I am to busy.
These are all probably pretty common things we say to ourselves and others when it comes to play. We all engaged in it at one level or another at some point in our lives, but at another point it seems we decide that play is no longer important or we no longer have the time for such purposelessness.
In fact I'll bet those of you who might have kids view their play as rather annoying or at times bothersome.
However the truth is we take play for granted. We don't give it the appreciation or importance that we should.
Play is in fact purposeful.
As children physical play plays an extremely important part in our development both mentally and physically. It helps us to develop strong neurological and musculoskeletal systems. It allows us to develop control over both gross and fine motor patterns and skills.
It gives us the opportunity to practice problem solving incorporating both mind and body in the challenges. It usually gives us time to interact socially with other human beings. It helps us develop conceptual concepts such as near, far, left, and right.
In short play has a huge impact on how we develop mentally and physically meaning that it directly affects our biochemistry in ways that are beneficial to us.
In our current culture though today physical play begins to be pushed aside for other "more important" tasks and activities. Play is replaced by exercise despite them really having the same end goal to improve our development, physically and mentally.
Exercise to most adults brings on a sense of dread and I don't blame them because for most it means a structured repetitive task done for an extended period of time. But to kids exercise is play and that means having fun.
It is just all in how we see it.
But we do know one thing just like play is important for children's development we know that exercise is vitally important to improving and maintaining our health over the longevity of our lives, both physically and mentally.
In recent years there has been quite a bit of research published regarding physical exercise and it's affects on the health of the body and mind.
Physical exercise increases levels or serotonin and dopamine which are essential for processing and trafficking thoughts and emotions in the brain.
Exercise triggers the release of molecules that can travel through the blood brain barrier such as vascular endothelial growth factor and insulin growth factor 1 that have been shown to be involved in the highest order mental processing and learning.
Exercise also stimulates an increase in brain derive neurotrophic factor which is the essential molecule as we understand it for the growth of neurons and development of new connections in the brain.
In fact some scientist have gone so far as to coin the term "internalization of movement." Meaning essentially that our ability to move dynamically is what has allowed us to develop the ability to process information on a higher order than other species and understand abstract and novel concepts.
The point here that I am trying to make is that movement is extremely important to us as a species for our mental and physical well being and some could quite literally make the argument that moving is what makes us human in a way.
Why then do we have to substitute play for exercise when both give us the same end result? Why can't we continue moving and having fun as adults?
The answers are we don't have to and we can.
Don't get me wrong I believe in having structured training programs especially for those of us who have specific goals. Having a several hours a week of structured training allows way more progress to be made with specific problems and goals.
However we all need to be incorporating more exercise throughout our whole lives and what better way to do that then with play.
I would encourage you to find more ways to play in your life.
This could be taking up a new sport.
It could mean trying out a bunch of new exercises in the gym.
For me it has meant experimenting with more bodyweight and ground based movements, especially within the concept of Flow.
Play could be as simple as running and rolling around with your dog or kids in your yard.
The overal idea is to shift the mindset away from exercise and back to play. This will mean we will have more fun doing it which means we are more likely to do it more often.
Don't let play become unimportant because in reality it vitally important to what makes you human and what keeps us healthy.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training