At what age did play turn into exercise?

Photo of Peter Hartmann
October 27, 2016
Reading time
3 minutes

Why should kids have all the fun? It’s time for us adults to put some excitement back into our otherwise dull workout routines.

Elite Sport_Play

It appears on my bank statement, just like clockwork: My health club fee. The fee I pay once every month for visiting the place about that often.

While making the payment, I started wondering… at what point do we adults start paying to do what kids do all the time for free?

Just think. For kids, exercise is play. With brains that are fresh and imaginative, they’re always coming up with clever, innocent ways to have fun. What to us adults looks like an expanse of green grass, in kids’ minds becomes a football field, complete with 80,000 cheering spectators. An innocuous piece of playground equipment becomes a pirate ship, complete with a plank to walk, sharks to avoid and Captain Hook to fight off.

Kids get most of their exercise from just playing with other kids, and they have plenty of fun and excitement while doing it.

But at a certain age near adulthood, all that stops. Exercise goes from innocent, carefree fun to a serious pursuit. As adults, we work out at the same place, at the same time, doing the same routines. For us, a treadmill, a stair stepper and free weights are just means of getting in our workouts.

In short, exercise becomes a chore. And the crazy thing is, we often pay a good amount of money to do it!

Stop Exercising, Start Playing!

It’s about time that we adults reclaimed innocent play for ourselves. Instead of regarding exercise as drudgery, we need to make it fun again.

Matt Phelan on how to retain top talent and the employee metrics that will truly matter in the future

I’ve seen several examples of how we can turn ordinary activities into exciting, calorie-burning, mind-stimulating exercise.

I’m locked into a fierce competition with a coworker who, like me, is determined to shape up. When one of us yells “Give me 10” anytime during the workday, both of us drop to the floor and knock out 10 pushups. Sure, it’s easy at first, but after the seventh or eighth time, I can feel the burn. It’s lots of fun, and the healthy competition is helping us get in shape. Plus our coworkers think it’s hilarious, and some even join in.

While walking past a dog park the other day, I saw a man with a stick in his hand. But he wasn’t tossing the stick. He was running with it, and his dog was chasing him, trying to take it away. What a great way to have fun – for dog and owner alike – while getting in a workout at the same time!

I have a friend who transforms his desk chair into a workout space. Between teleconferences, reports and spreadsheets, he contorts his body into all kinds of crazy configurations. In one, he pushes himself up by his forearms, pulls his legs together and raises them at a 90 degree angle to his body for a few minutes at a time – or until his face is beet red. He says the workout regimen is great for burning calories, relieving stress and making the day go faster.

But most of all, he says, “It’s fun!”

I couldn’t agree with him more. So who wants to join me in turning exercise time into play time?

Share the article