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Play is a Verb

Play, Playing, Played

Playing with my granddaughter at the park reminds me that the “art of play” is a skill everyone should cultivate to lead a happy and healthy life. At the playground she insists that I follow her up and down the equipment, climbing, crawling through the tubes and swinging on the swings.While I have been teaching her how to do yoga and hula hoop she has been teaching me how to stay present in whatever game her imagination creates.

I am grateful to have the energy, stamina, strength, and flexibility to keep up with a 5-year-old.During one playdate at Macomb playground, my granddaughter made a new friend and we all played together for over an hour. Before leaving, I thanked her for being kind to my granddaughter. She questioned, “you’re her grandmother?!?” I confirmed it. She said, “ you’re too young and too much fun to be a grandmother. All the others just sit around and watch!” Out of the mouth of babes…

Let’s define “play”. A few Webster dictionary definitions are as follows:

1. The spontaneous activity of children.

2. The state of being active, operative or relevant

3. Brisk, fitful and light movement

All of these are what I would call anti-aging. Studies show that physical activity keeps your brain healthy. It helps you think better, learn new things, problem solve, and have emotional balance.Exercise is known to alleviate depression and reduce cognitive decline, such as dementia. We now know that for brain health, our brain cells must be challenged regularly in a proprioceptive environment that uses all our senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Exercising and playing in nature brings all these together.

June 21st is the Summer Equinox. Maximum daylight brings the most time for fun. Water is the element for the summer season in the Medicine Wheel and it’s essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s also good teacher when it comes to the “art of play;” we should go with the flow and follow the path of least resistance.

Some of my favorite activities for summer vacation are road trips, long distance backpacking, music festivals, Yoga gatherings, time spent with family in and around water (swimming and paddle boarding) and relaxing in nature.

This is a wonderful time to put some water, wonder and wanderlust in your workout and take a few risks. Perhaps try a hike followed by jumping into a cold mountain lake for a swim. Maybe it’s time for a surfing lesson. How about a nice bike ride or walk on the beach or a picnic in park playing frisbee, shooting hoops or running through the sprinklers? Go to an outdoor music festival or a Country Western bar to line dance. Pickle Ball or tennis anyone?

The options are unlimited - the only requirements are that you use a little muscle, imagination, and play. Put away the seriousness of your fitness routine and be spontaneous. Let go of the need to control or be perfect and be willing to be present.

“We don’t stop playing when we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

-George Bernard Shaw

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