I came upon the most wonderful sight in front of my house recently. An array of nerf gun bullets lying in the street.
When it comes to fitness and brain health, you always hear the admonition “We need more research.” And we do, I agree. But…sometimes we don’t. We do not need a double-blind random controlled trial to determine if play is fun.
A spirited group of kids that live in my neighborhood are always running around together playing and it is magnificent. Sometimes they climb trees, sometimes they play tag, and sometimes they have a nerf gun war.
I love seeing the remnants of a group of kids playing with abandon. “Lose yourself in play to find yourself in fitness” is the Funtensity tagline for a reason. It means they were experiencing social connection combined with physical activity that was random, challenging, and playful.
As important as it is to continually study the objective future benefits of fitness on brain health, it is equally important to appreciate the sublime and subjective experience of a single social yet fun and challenging fitness experience.
In that moment when you are lost in physically challenging play, you are making that moment powerfully transformative for your mood and mindset. We all deserve those moments of unbounded freedom and expansiveness that physically challenging play can provide.
Fitness isn’t really about “FITNESS!” It is about freedom. The freedom to do things without having to think and worry about your body. To be unburdened with physical concerns about whether you have what it takes in the upcoming nerf gun battle.
If you continually create single physical activity experiences that are challenging yet fun, you will find that working out suddenly takes less willpower and less discipline because you become inherently drawn to the activity.
And that is what makes you do it consistently enough to get the long-term benefits for both brain and body.
Yes, we need to research the long-term benefits of exercise. But we need to emphasize the benefits that need no research. Namely, that “exercise” done right doesn’t feel like exercise as much as it feels like physically challenging play.
The emotional benefits in providing relief from the soul-fatigue of daily life cannot be studied and they do not need to be. Even though we cannot quantify the benefits, they are invaluable.