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The Importance of Play

November 28, 2012

Linda, one of my long-time class participants and a generally great person, sent me a link to a video on  of an older man named Stephen Jepson who truly understands the importance of play in keeping mentally and physically fit.

If you get a chance, take a look at the playground he’s created for himself. While this might not be what you see in your neighbor’s yard, the rightness of his attitude is undeniable. Play is fantastic for the heart and the mind, literally, and therefore something I practice and advocate.

Need to be convinced? Check out the website for the National Institute for Play. When talking about body and movement play, as opposed to social, object or pretend play, the website makes a good point:

Learning about self movement structures an individual’s knowledge of the world – it is a way of knowing, and we actually, through movement and play, think in motion. For example the play-driven movement of leaping upward is a lesson about gravity as well as one’s body. And it lights up the brain and fosters learning. Innovation, flexibility, adaptability, resilience, have their roots in movement. The play driven pleasures associated with exploratory body movements, rhythmic early speech (moving vocal cords), locomotor and rotational activity – are done for their own sake; pleasurable, and intrinsically playful. They sculpt the brain, and ready the player for the unexpected and unusual.

The website also lists some interesting reading about the neuroscience of play, including Play as if Your Life Depended on It by Frank Forencich.

Another good article titled Why Play Matters for Both Kids and Adults ( lists a lot of great reasons play is so important:

Some of the reasons we play:

  • to learn
  • to create
  • to feel challenged
  • to pass time
  • to calm and focus ourselves
  • as spectators watching others
  • competitively to win
  • cooperatively
  • for the fun of it
  • for the joy of it

There’s also a section titled “Playing at work: The key to productivity and innovation.”

And just as I was writing this post, my niece sent me a link to a new piece of equipment called the Yogibo, which an enterprising fitness professional is using to inspire kids and their parents to get fit while having fun, as you can tell if you watch this video.

Happy working (playing) out!

  1. Winter has always been tough for me because I’m inside so much, and I feel isolated. I think what Stephen has done is pretty terrific. Is that him on the tightrope? Thanks for sharing another great book. Sounds like something I need to read.

    • Yeah, that’s Stephen.

      I grew up near Chicago, so I remember those long, cold winters. Really drove me batty, even though I was very active. I’ve enjoyed living where it’s nice year-round.

      But if I did move back to a real-winter location, I’d do a much better job of setting up my schedule to include regular bouts of fun, whether volleyball, indoor rock climbing, using my boxing bag, etc. I routinely ask people in my classes what they like to do, which gives me great ideas.

      You should come visit me and teach me tai chi!

  2. You’d like T’chi, Martha. It’s very invigorating and relaxing. Which sounds strange together but works somehow.

    We’re hoping to sell the house so we can move to New Brunswick in the Maritime. That way we’ll have the 4 seasons, but be near a community where there will be lots to do. I can’t wait.

    • I bet I would love T’chi. I don’t know how I could have gone this long without trying it, especially when it’s prevalent here in Silicon Valley.

      Great news about the move! I looked up the location and it does look beautiful. And how wonderful that it’ll have more fun stuff to offer you.

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