Have you ever heard yourself say something like 'I want to get fit, but as a parent I just don't have the time'? Enter 'active play', a way for you to combine your fitness goals with family time...
Movement is an inherent part of the human experience: we have evolved to be active! But for many people, getting active has become a chore. People avoid it because it's hard work, it's boring, or there just isn't time. If this sounds familiar to you then you're not alone. We have all been there in some way or another!
The key, I believe, is to inject the fun back into movement. Barbells and treadmills have their place, of course, but they are not necessary to get your body in great working order. If you don't enjoy what you are doing then you won't sustain it long term!
“When we stop playing, we stop developing and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over - things fall apart. When we stop playing, we start dying.” - Stuart Brown
Without movement our bodies stop working effectively. Like a door which is never opened, or an engine never used, the moving parts rust and fall apart. Without active play, not only does our ability to move suffer, but also our ability to be happy and joyful.
We must stop being afraid of play, of movement, and start to build this habit into our daily lives. As parents we have a headstart here, we have something non-parents don't have: children! Having children in our household can be very hard work, of course, but we are so blessed to have these inspirational mini-humans around.
The reasons why we are grateful are so numerous it would be crazy to try and list them, but for the purpose of this article there are two which rise above the others: boundless energy, and love of play.
With these two characteristics in mind, what more do we need in order to get active than these kids?!
Related: Staying Healthy as a Parent
What is Active Play?
As the name suggests, active play is about being active and playing. Duh.
Swinging on the monkey bars? Active play.
Splashing in the pool? Active play.
Footie in the park? Active play.
Get the picture? The trick here though, is that YOU have to be involved. It's not enough for you to watch your kids playing footie, you must get in there and show them your skills. Or your lack thereof, I'm no Alan Shearer. Merlin sticker book 96/97 represent!
Use these firecrackers you created to force you to get moving. Do you want to be the parent sat on the grass playing Candy Crush while your kids do cartwheels? Or do you want to be the parent doing cartwheels with your kids?
Active play doesn't have to be outdoors though, it can be yoga, pillow fights, and practicing your WWE moves. Please do a risk assessment first.
Whatever you decide to do, active play is just about two things: moving, and having fun.
Why Active Play?
The NHS guidelines are to include 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. With this you can expect the following reduced risks:
- Coronary heart disease and stroke reduced by 35%
- Type 2 Diabetes reduced by 50%
- Colon cancer reduced by 50%
- Breast cancer reduced by 20%
- Early death reduced by 30%
- Osteoarthritis reduced by 83%
- Hip fracture reduced by 68%
- Falls (in older adults) reduced by 30%
- Depression reduced by 30%
- Dementia reduced by 30%
Add to this the benefits of spending more time together as a family:
- Stronger emotional bonds between parents and children
- Better communication
- Improved performance in school
- Lower risk of behavioural problems
So you're starting to see the compounding benefits here, right?
How can I Include Active Play?
Everyone has a different daily routine, so this part is a bit more tricky. Your day won't look like my day, and another person's day will look entirely different again. Have a look at where you can fit this kind of play in with your kids, here are some examples which you might like to pick from:
- First thing in the morning - get up earlier and make the mornings fun instead of a rush!
- After school
- Before dinner/after work
- After dinner (I would recommend something gentle like a walk here, we don't want a spew emergency...)
Those are the obvious ones, but if you have kids who aren't at school you could fit it in any time of day!
And, like I've said before, all you need to do is get active and have fun. Climb trees. Play on the beach. Swim in a river. Run up a big hill and admire the view while attempting handstands. The possibilities are pretty much unlimited!
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So, in summary: active play is just about getting moving and having fun, the benefits are significant and varied, and all you need to do is find when you can schedule this in as a priority.
So what are you waiting for? Get on with it!
Also, why not join my free support group and let me know how you get on with your active play?