Active means literally, just that, active. Moving your body. It doesn’t have to mean professional sports, intense training sessions, or daily workouts. It can mean running around, jumping, climbing, rolling, dancing, playing, stretching, balancing, walking, and the list goes on. It can be enjoyed with others, or blissfully enjoyed alone. We all know staying active is a key component to keeping our bodies healthy. But how about our minds – the way we learn, the way we remember things, the way we handle emotions?
As adults, we tend to put activity into sports or workouts. However, kids seem to turn anything into active play. In the mind of an eight year old, for example, there’s a possibility for anything, literally anything – a toy, a stick, a plastic bottle cap – to become the centre of fun, free active play. Somewhere along the way, us adults forgot that there can be pure joy in activity - the adrenaline rush and thrilling exhaustion that comes from actively playing something that you’re fully engaged in. Not thinking about what to make for supper, or to check your emails, but actually focused on having fun while moving your body. Perhaps it’s the rush of juggling work and life, the responsibility of managing a family and a home, whatever it is, we’ve forgotten what it means to just enjoy being active, let it be a natural part of our lives. To do something good for our bodies, good for our minds, and good for our souls.
For children, growing up is tough when you’re expected to learn everything – how to read, write, compute, express, listen, create – while sitting! It’s goes against the very natural urge to turn something into free active play. To get your hands dirty, to test the limits, to satisfy your curiosity, or to practice life skills you see your parents doing every day. Imagine the potential if children were encouraged to get up out of their seats to learn? Imagine our own potential if you could spend time everyday just walking, running, climbing, stretching, etc.? Perhaps, even, in the fresh outdoors?
4 Surprising Perks of Active Free Play
The more engaging the activity, the less you can think about the stresses in your life. Active free play, like running, climbing, etc. takes a mental capacity that helps you to clear your mind and engage in something tangible and achievable. Also, for many of us, having control over how competitive you make your activity can reduce the stress level. Competing against yourself and your own goals can be a greater motivation to keep up with it everyday, and it can reduce the chances of comparing yourself to others, which for many children, is hugely beneficial.
Find yourself spending time together in front a television screen? How engaging is that? Finding time to spend some active free play together builds character traits, positive learning experiences, and connections between family and friends. A simple game of hide and seek, capture the flag, or tag in the park. A walk to the playground, a swim at the pool, or an afternoon at the beach. It provides interactive, face-to-face time where children learn more about the people in their life, who they are, and the world we live in. The more time we spend staring at screens, the less we know how to communicate with each other, empathize with others, know about ourselves and our families, and take delight in a sunny day or a shared laugh. Get together, get moving. It’s about time, wouldn’t you think?
Increased Productivity & Creativity
A clear mind gives you space to start fresh, look at things from a different perspective, or sharpen your critical eye. It gives you more room to remember things, play out ideas, and build a concrete understanding. Taking time to engage in something fun, exhilarating, and active can be just the mental break you need to sort through ideas in your head, make sense of things, and let solutions take fold for problems at work, school, family, etc.. Honestly, free active play, as any kid will show you after recess, lunch, or gym class, can be just as supportive and conducive for a learning child as could be for a working adult. Imagine your potential!
A Happy Healthy Boost
Get that adrenaline flowing, endorphins releasing and you’re on your way to a happier, healthier you. Not only will regular activity that is free of stress and full of fun get your heart rate going, but you’ll feel better, too. Your body will be stronger, less stressed, and more able to relax, let go, and simply enjoy experiences life has to offer you. Your food will digest more regularly, your body will fight off infections faster, you’ll sleep more soundly, and you’ll gain a strong appreciation for life, learning, and the world we live in. Sounds wonderful, eh?
So, this spring, don’t be too hard on yourself about hitting the gym or signing your child up for every sports team – being active can be so much more than that, and can be friendlier on the wallet, too! Make an effort to find time to make physical activity something you enjoy, but also something that benefits your life. Make it meaningful!
I’m off to walk to dogs and the little one!
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Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!