Play is a fundamental part of our learning and development as children. It provides us with a variety of sensory, physical and cognitive experiences from which we learn and build internal connections. According to psychiatrist, Stuart Brown, when children, especially younger than 10 years old, are deprived of play the results are particularly scary. Play deprivation during these years is linked to many problems such as increased prevalence of depression, diminished impulse control, less self-regulation and aggression. Now the scientist in me is cautious to extrapolate these findings into an adult cohort but I will take the time to highlight a number of benefits that play can provide us as adults.
Overall well-being: Playfulness is linked to desirable characteristics. Physical well-being: Playful adults have a more active way of life. Relieving stress: through the release of endorphins providing an overall sense of well being. Coping with stress: Playful adults use coping skills more effectively. Stimulates creativity: helping you adapt and solve problems. Given it's my area of expertise I'm more focused on the physical outcomes of play. Solving puzzles is cool, but might be better to do at home than in the gym. In saying that, be my guest. When it comes to the physical outcomes proprioception is the big one. Proprioception is the awareness of our body in space. Receptors in our muscles, tendons, joints and inner ear sends feedback to our central nervous system about the positions of our body. It's almost like a cross section of balance and motor control. Physical play puts us in a variety of positions both planned and unplanned which only strengthens our ability to move.
Let's get to the fun stuff, how can we add aspects of play to our gym program? As I write this article I'm already thinking of some new things to implement for our group sessions, so stay tuned for those.
The most practical way to implement aspects of play is within our warm ups. If we get it right we can add play whilst also preparing ourselves physically for our upcoming session. So the things we want to look for are; moving through a full range of motion, increasing our heart and breathing rate and a slight increase in body temperature. Here's a few off the top of my head Basketball - this is the obvious one for our gym members and it's already a pretty frequent go to. Balance board - using our skim board and foam roller you've got yourself a legit balance board. Balance, move around, face different directions, squat to grab the board, imagine yourself getting pitted at pipeline. Yeow
Animal Movements - if you've ever ripped into any of my bodyweight work outs you would've come across things like bear crawls, frogs, cobras, gorillas etc. not only are these great exercises but they are fun and easy to play around with and mix together.
Keepy Up - whether it's with a balloon or a different soft ball this game is heaps of fun by yourself or with friends. You've probably seen me integrate it into my kids sessions, they love it.
Juggling - last year I challenged myself to learn how to juggle and with a bit of practice I got it down. As it lacks the full body movement maybe throw some typical warm up exercises each side of juggling attempts. Wrestling - yeah pretty full on but if you've got a willing partner and a background in contact sport there's no reason you can't play around on our soft mats. Put constraints on things so you don't take each other heads off but a great way to play, just don't get carried away. Spikeball - I need to get a new spikeball net. We've played this as a warm up in the past with a variation of success. You really need a few people that are keen and know what they are doing to make it work. Sure is fun though.
I hope these example have set of your imagination. Feel free to let me know if you've got any fun ones for me and if I see you in the gym doing some weird shit, let me join in!
Ta for reading,