Come and play

 Words Gemma Monachino

We need to exercise for its many benefits to our health, and it’s now recognised that the best way to exercise is to play. Yes, adults too.

We all know there are many benefits from exercising, including physical and emotional wellness– but did you know that people who regularly ‘move’ are more creative than their more sedentary peers? According to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, we ought to be spending around five to six days a week participating in a balanced programme of cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises. For many of us that is challenging, though it needn’t be.

The most common reasons for failing to exercise are lack of time, costs and convenience. When ‘exercising’ isn’t convenient it is far less likely to happen, but I also see a lot of people who simply don’t like exercise – they feel awkward and remark that it doesn’t come naturally to them. Research tells us that if you lack motor control as a child then you are less likely to be active as an adult and your risk of having a cardiovascular illness increases. I’m pleased to say that with appropriate programming, motor control dysfunctions can be addressed and improved.  

Perception is everything. When we hold a negative view about something, it becomes a chore and too difficult. What’s worth remembering is that when we exercise we get a feel-good endorphin hit, our joints feel better and our circulatory system is stimulated – movement is medicine.

Exercising needn’t be regimented, and any form of moving is better than none. Identify activities you find enjoyable that are a little more like play. Some of my favourites are yoga, pilates, pole dancing, functional/primal movement patterns, hiking and running but there are many others… martial arts, horse riding – just look around.

With movement and play in our lives we benefit from increased memory, energy and creativity.

At Evolve, we like to be creative and incorporate ‘play’ into our sessions.  

‘Play’ is generally unstructured fun and our inherent motor learning system learns more effectively than it does from regimented and predictable programmes. ‘Play’ is often contrasted with ‘work’ and considered a form of activity that is trivial and lacking in any real purpose. It is viewed as something that kids do; adults are expected to ‘grow out of it’. I know I’m not the only one who finds this thinking flawed! ‘Play’ is indeed one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology. According to research, the value of play is increasingly recognised for adults as well as children, with the evidence of its relationship between emotional wellbeing and intellectual achievement. Physical play is one of five archetypes of play and as a child I remember doing all sorts of activities such as jumping, climbing, dancing, skipping, bike riding, ball sports, horse riding, tree climbing, swimming. I can still recall the sense of freedom and satisfaction of conquering a new skill.  

With movement and play in our lives we benefit from increased memory, energy and creativity. We sleep better, our sex lives are better and we find it easier to cope with stress. What are you waiting for? Get creative and look around – New Zealand is one big playground!

Gemma Monachino is the director of Evolve Health Integrated Health Specialists providing physiotherapy, acupuncture, functional movement systems, yoga and pilates. For more, visit evolvehealth.co.nz​​​​​​​

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