Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t get enough of playing kickball or tag or jumping on a trampoline with your pals? Chances are, you had to be called in for dinner or bath time, often more than once. As you got older, physical activity probably became more regimented for you, as you focused on time, distance, speed, reps or other metrics. And the fun factor probably became secondary, which is unfortunate.
Increasingly, fitness experts are recognizing the value of embracing a playful attitude toward exercising because it brings numerous mind-body benefits.
“Exercise can and should be fun—that’s how you stick with it,” says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist in Darien, Connecticut, and author of Beat the Gym. Plus, “when it’s fun, you’re going to work out harder and longer and you’re going to enjoy it more. If you’re enjoying the workout, it lowers your perceived exertion, which helps you work harder. You can exercise with a smile on your face and actually get a better workout.”
As proof, consider this: Research has found that adults who enjoyed playing the active video game Dance Dance Revolution played it at a higher intensity and burned more calories during the activity than those who were less engaged with the activity. Another study found that when adults played an interactive video game (the PlayStation 2, Road Fury 2 game) while cycling on an ergonomic bike, they worked out harder, expended more energy, and enjoyed it more than when they did a conventional indoor-cycling session.
“Making physical activity more playful ends up meeting more of your needs than just your need for physical activity—it can bring you joy,” says Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and movement specialist in Sequim, Washington, and author of Dynamic Aging. “Play is often associated with not being aware of how much time has passed, so playful physical activity will help you get more physical activity. You’re likely to do it longer and more often.”
Indeed, research has found that getting a mood boost during exercise is associated with greater adherence to physical activity programs.
To learn how to discover your personal formula for fun and games, from AARP, CLICK HERE.