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How to use play to maximize healthy living.

Even adults can benefit when it comes to play for healthy living, it makes food and fitness fun, helping you stick with it.

When is the last time you played? The last time you did something for fun, or experimented, purely out of curiosity or because you could, but not because you had to, but because you wanted to. 

We all know play is important for children. It helps them develop their imagination, coordination, physical, cognitive and emotional strength. And it’s no different for adults.  Play results in the body creating Endorphins.  It helps create an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

adult play for healthy living

Play for healthy living helps to:

Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—a principle that applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems.

Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Fun fitness

Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.

Reasons Play is Important for Adults:

As adults, we get stuck in our own ways and routines.  We run from discomfort or uncertainty. When the exercise habit or eating healthy foods get hard, we stop enjoying it and create excuses to put it off. That’s when play and experimentation comes in as a tool to keep the motivation going.  We need to exercise our discomfort muscle more than ever. The more often we play the more we are comfortable with it. It’s about building resilience.  

As kids we learn by making mistakes, play encourages us to make mistakes and the light-hearted nature of it makes them feel ok.  

How to incorporate Play and experimentation

Play with Food food for healthy living

  • Experiment with trying new foods.  Try new recipes, or eat at a different restaurant.  One of the biggest issues with gut health is the lack of variety in our diets.  Expand your repertoire, let someone else do the hard work creating the dish, decide what you like about it and try and recreate it on your own. 
  • Try using different utensils.  Eat with your hands. In a quick google of fun ways to eat food, I saw a pair of lightsaber chopsticks.  You don’t need to go crazy, a normal set of chopsticks are fine but think outside your usual knife and fork box.  Drink soup straight from the bowl (don’t tell my kids I said that), but I think I’d actually get a lot of joy from doing that knowing I was hiding it from my kids.  I imagine it would be like a giant mug of hot soup on a cold day.
  • Ditch the concept of adult food and kids’ food.  Why are there even kids menus when we eat out? Chinese kids eat Chinese food, Mexican kids eat Mexican food, why do we have ‘kids food’ that usually consists of chips, nuggets, and pizza.  Having said that, next time you see a kid’s menu, have a look, see if anything floats your boat, and recreate a healthy version of it. Make your own pizza on pita bread loaded with vegetables.  If you’re a meat-lover only kind of person, experiment and find a few veggies you like. Say what you want, but pineapple and corn are 2 of my go-to pizza toppings.
  • Experiment with different shapes and colours.  Realistically that’s what the healthy version of kids’ food is, we chop up strawberries and make fruit salad skewers.  It doesn’t need to be limited to fruit. The more colours in your diet, the healthier it is.
  • Try new ways to cook it.  A raclette is a small appliance that has become very trendy for dinner parties.  It has a grill on top where you can cook your own vegetables, meat, and seafood. The surface area isn’t very big so it take a while, allowing for socializing and give you a great excuse to play with your food and enjoy the taste.
  • Try rolling your own sushi.  Alternatively, rice paper rolls are also fun, very hands-on and you can make sure you add ingredients you like.  I know I can knock back a sushi roll in around a minute, but taking the time to actually roll them makes you appreciate the food and take the time to enjoy it.
  • Skewer it.  Thread your own protein and veggies on a skewer and cook them on a bbq or hot plate.  Alternatively, try threading fruit on a skewer and cooking them. The natural sugars in fruit will caramelize and taste delicious.  Peaches, apples, pineapple, watermelon, bananas, and even strawberries are fruits that grill well.
  • Find good people to eat with, if everyone brings something to the table you’ll be open to new foods and connect the meal with good feelings.
  • Be a bit crazy and try new flavours or foods together.

Play with movement for healthy living.

Exercise doesn’t need to look like lifting weights and running marathons every day (though I do encourage both lifting weights and getting a bit of serious cardio in).

  • Sing and dance just for the fun of it.  A great way to have a sudden mood shift when you think you’re either going to fall asleep or explode with rage is to suddenly get moving.  Particularly if it’s to a song that brings you joy. I’d highly encourage you to make a playlist just for that sort of situation.
  • What did you enjoy as a kid? Did you play frisbee, or hang off the monkey bars? What about exploring in the bush, skipping with a skipping rope, hopscotch, swimming or shooting basketball hoops?  Think of what you loved then and give it a go now.
  • Electronic games have come a long way.  Get the Wii out and play a game of tennis, download Pokemon go and tame some creatures.
  • What have you always wanted to try? Instead of the movies, maybe hire a kayak with a friend, or try indoor rock climbing.
  • Make connections with physical activity to your normal everyday life.  My kids can help me deadlift the couch and move it across the room. I drop down into a squat to fill up at the water cooler instead of bending over.

At the end of the day, incorporating play for healthy living will make life a whole lot more fun, and keep you feeling young at heart.

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Health and Nutrition coach, helping women find their Strength, Courage, Power and Roar through food and fitness

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