Paleo Magazine, one of our 2018 Conference on the Value of Play sponsors, wants our readers to know that Paleo is more than just a diet! In fact, they believe there are three equally important components that make up the Paleo lifestyle as shown in this graphic. Do you see what is on the exercise list?! PLAY!
Read on to learn what Paleo Magazine says about PLAY!
“When it comes to maintaining health, exercise is optional, but movement is essential.”— Frank Forencich, The Art Is Long
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”— George Bernard Shaw
Many of today’s health problems exist because our daily physical-activity patterns are completely different from those we were designed to perform. Americans spend over 90 percent of their time indoors (this includes enclosed buildings and vehicles). As a result, we are exposed to more pollutants than ever before, and many of us are lacking much-needed vitamin D.
We know it’s vital for our health to spend time outside, but once outdoors it is even more beneficial for us to play—to move. Playing outside and embracing our inner child has been shown to do wonders for our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Think of playing outside as movement paired with fun. Play is different from exercising or working out, activities where the goal is to achieve specific fitness benchmarks. You can enjoy outdoor play with friends and family, adults and children, and of course pets. Playing includes activities like hide-and-seek, tag, Frisbee, catch, racing, tag, dancing, bicycling, and any type of movement that makes you laugh and feel like a kid again.
The natural environments of our ancestors enabled a variety of outdoor physical activities—our ancestors led a very active lifestyle without the constraints we face today. Thankfully, we can optimize gene expression and establish the health that was enjoyed by hunter-gathers by engaging in daily physical activity.
Physical activity can help you sleep better, feel happier, and reduce stress, among many other benefits. So don’t be ashamed of heading outside to engage in activities you loved as a child with family and friends—the research has your back!
Playing outdoors makes healing even more enjoyable. According to Harvard Health Publications and several studies, being immersed in Mother Nature helps us heal—both physically and emotionally. Research shows that people recovering from spinal surgery experience less pain and stress, and take fewer pain medications, when they spend time outdoors. Play can also:
- Help clear up acne, psoriasis, eczema, and jaundice.
- Reduce the need for pain medication in patients who have undergone surgery.
- Help older adults sleep better and experience less pain and less functional decline with respect to daily activities.
- Improve mental well-being.
Benefits for Sleep
Research shows that physical activity improves our sleep:
- 150 minutes of playtime per week (about 20 minutes a day) can improve adults’ sleep performance by 65 percent.
- Playing outside can help improve the quality of our sleep.
- Spending time outdoors in natural light shifts the cycle of our sleep hormones, which helps us to go to sleep and wake up earlier, and feel less groggy upon waking up.
Effects on Mood and Self-Esteem
Having had once been children, we know that playing outside is fun. And the evidence has taught us that the combination of social and physical activity can bolster our mental health and sense of self. Spontaneous play, which encourages much-needed face-to-face socialization, provides us with happy moments and wonderful memories.
The positive effects of playing outdoors on mood include:
- Reduced aggression and violence—physical activity is useful for redirecting and dissipating stress-fueled aggressive energy
- Playing outdoors allows us to engage in social activities that have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms.
- Play leads to laughter, which offers its own health benefits—laughter relaxes your muscles, reduces pain and stress, improves circulation, and enhances your immune system.
Effects on Focus and Creativity
- Walking outside is linked to improved focus and creativity.
- Playtime allows children and adults to explore new ideas and express their imaginations.
- ADHD has been referred to by experts as a “nature-deficit disorder,” whose onset might be linked to us spending less time outdoors.
- Research has shown that children are more focused on their schoolwork after recess.
How to Play
It seems like a simple question: How do we play? But many of us have lost our natural instinct for unstructured outdoor physical activity. Here are some tips and ideas for rekindling your ability to play:
- Think like a kid. Let your inner child be your guide.
- Take your children outside and follow them around. Do what they do. Let them inspire you.
- Climb a tree.
- Go for a hike, and feel free to venture from the beaten path from time to time.
- Organize a group sport, like soccer, frisbee golf, or touch football.
- Play tag.
- Race, but don’t concern yourself so much with winning.
- In the winter, go sledding, and when you get to the bottom, walk back up the hill.
- Play fetch with your pets.
- Try something new that you’ve always wanted to do.
When was the last time you spent a day barefoot at the beach and felt bad about it? Never? There’s a reason: When we walk (and play) outdoors barefoot, walking across grass, mud, or sand, we are taking part in an activity that is referred to as “grounding” or “earthing.”
Earth carries a huge negative charge, which can provide us with an excellent supply of electrons that are antioxidant-rich and have the ability to destroy free radicals (too many free radicals causes oxidative stress in our body and leads to disease). You actually absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet when your bare feet are on the ground—that is, dirt or grass, not concrete or asphalt.
The benefits of grounding include:
- Rich source of antioxidants
- Pain relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved sleep
- Reduced stress on your body
- Helps repair effects of radiation from cell phones, computers, etc.
- Calms your sympathetic nervous system—supporting heart-rate variability
- Supporting heart-rate variability in turn supports homeostasis (balance) in your autonomic nervous system
Moving Beyond Play
At some point in your fitness journey you may decide you want to add more complex movements to your daily routine. Play—with its hormonal benefits and emphasis on connecting with nature and other people—will of course continue being an important component for achieving physical and mental well-being. Play after all is the most basic, and only truly, necessary form of regular physical activity for overall wellness.
Lifting weights, sprinting, engaging in high-intensity interval workouts—these are all effective ways to take your physical fitness to the next level. Though for some the jump can seem intimidating. So start slowly. And no matter what other physical exercise you decide to incorporate into your Paleo lifestyle, DON’T EVER STOP PLAYING.
Excerpted from Go Paleo by Paleo Magazine