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Play: why having a physical hobby is so important

Humans are born to move. Unfortunately, modern society has become far too convenient to the point where a lot of us drive, sit, grubhub, and lounge much more than we walk, stand, cook, and play. In fact, it is not uncommon that people will spend most days of their week in the following sequence: wake up, sit in the car, sit at work/school, sit in the car, sit on couch, lay down for bed, repeat. Many daily hobbies have shifted from playing outside to sedentary activities like watching netflix or scrolling though social media, which has all taken a toll on both our physical and mental health.

However, within all of us, I believe there is a natural urge to nourish ourselves with a wide range of physical movement - we just have to fight against modern culture and the habits that we have created to get back to it. As children, we have an innate tendency to play in order to explore our bodies, motor map, and express ourselves physically. When we choose other options (TV, computers, video games, etc.), we can lose out on a lot of the development that is associated with play; some of these include development of the prefrontal cortex, social development, motor control, and the ability to calibrate strength.

Sports were created as a “sub segment” of play in order to produce the same effects; however, what happens to the kids who are deemed “unathletic” and pushed away from sports? It’s possible that they can then create a negative relationship with physical activity as a whole. However, at the end of the day, we are intrinsically motivated (some to more of a degree than others), to play. It makes sense to believe that our brains are wired this way in order to motivate us to move our physically capable bodies. This is why I believe it is so important to have a physical hobby that is some sort of version of play. This could be anything from organized sports, walking, hiking, biking, rockclimbing, boxing, weightlifting…whatever. Find your version of play and pursue it. Better yet, find as many different types as you can; as we know, variation of movement is vital to overall physical health.

Since play is motivation in itself, we are then indirectly motivated to train for whatever our play is so that we can achieve the goals that we want to within our play of choice. This is also why having specific goals is so critical. When we are working towards something that we are passionate about, we will have much more drive to go do it…rather than mustering up just enough motivation to go the gym and go through the motions without any goal in mind. More often than not, the latter is rather unsustainable.

Long story short: find your play and go do it!

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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