NEW YORK — When adults exercise, they tend to have the same resolute look on their faces. Yet many experts say adopting a playful attitude toward working out benefits mental health, mixes up the workout and encourages people to keep moving.
Here’s what you can do.
DROP YOUR INHIBITIONS ABOUT MOVEMENT. For most people, movement stops being fun at the beginning of adolescence, when many stop playing games and competitive sports enter the picture, said Dr Matthew Ladwig, an assistant professor of integrative human health at Purdue University Northwest.
Mr Darryl Edwards, the founder of an exercise program called the Primal Play Method, said the key to rediscovering the fun of exercise is to tap into memories from before exercise became a chore.
In 2011, he left an investment banking job to become a personal trainer. He soon noticed that many clients seemed bored and realised he was often bored, too.
So he looked back to his childhood for inspiration. Mr Edwards began incorporating play into his workouts and his clients’: Climbing trees, balancing on railings and crawling on all fours instead of going to the gym.
Eventually, he developed a workout aimed at building strength and endurance through childlike play. His clients give piggyback rides and play tag instead of lifting weights.
Not only do they get a solid workout, he said, it changes how they see movement. “Play is not the activity,” Mr Edwards said.
“It’s the attitude you have.”
FIND SMALL WAYS TO BE MORE CHILDLIKE. Dr Ladwig said children don’t move steadily for long periods of time. They stop and start: Chasing a ball, then playing a game.
Ask a friend to kick a ball or throw a Frisbee with you. Or add bursts of running or skipping to your walks.
If balancing on railings or climbing trees sounds risky, bounce a ball while you walk the dog, or gamify it by giving yourself two points if you pass someone and deducting five if someone passes you.
Children also aren’t worried about making mistakes or looking silly while exercising. Try blasting your favorite song and dancing around the living room, said Ms Erica Nix, a trainer based in Austin, Texas.
For her online aerobics classes, Ms Nix dons vintage workout gear and acts out song lyrics.
“I want to make it fun and silly, take out the perfectionism of it,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.