To stay fit, embrace the power of play

The benefits of play — for adults as well as kids — include stress management, joy and social engagement. Learn how to bring the joys of play back into your life so that you can stay fit while having fun.

By Danielle P. Johnson, P.T.

Be honest: Are you having fun when you exercise? If not, it's time to rethink your approach. Exercise doesn't have to be drudgery or a rote regimen. There are many ways to add play into your current fitness plan and many reasons why you should. Evidence suggests that play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Along with challenging your body in new ways, active play provides opportunities for stress relief and social connections.

Here are some ways to add a little fun into your fitness routine.

  • Join a team! Most cities and workplaces offer sports leagues with activities for all levels. Loved volleyball, basketball, tennis, dodgeball or kickball as a kid? Bring that childhood joy of team spirit back into your adult life. Some healthy competition can be a great way to boost your motivation.
  • Try a group fitness class. Exercising with others gives you a sense of camaraderie and support and may push you to perform better or at a higher intensity as you watch others challenge themselves. Remember: You can get these benefits from any type of class. Find something that appeals to you, whether it's yoga, kickboxing, Pilates or dancing.
  • Set a goal for yourself and others. Create a contest at work to see who can get the most physical activity each day. Have your co-workers track and report their activity, such as the number of stairs they climb or the number of steps they take. This will help hold you accountable and may spur some spirited conversations at work.
  • At the gym, race against others on the bike or treadmill. Many types of fitness equipment let you race against people around you at the gym. If you have a workout partner, keep track of your races and turn them into a game or contest.
  • Train for a fun run. Adventurous races are becoming more popular for a reason. They are fun. You can find many different types of races, from those where you are chased by a zombie to ones where you wade through mud puddles.

The benefits of play don't stop as we grow older, so get out there and get playful. You'll enjoy less stress, a competitive outlet and meaningful relationships with others.

Experiments

Try Danielle's suggestions for getting more playful.

  1. Ask a friend to join you in a friendly fitness competition.
  2. Sign up for a local fun run.
  3. Try a group fitness class.
Dec. 14, 2016 See more In-depth