Just like in modern times, all work and no play made Grok a dull boy. Hunter-gatherers have always generally worked fewer hours and have had more leisure time than the average 40-hour-plus American worker. Once the day’s catch was complete or the roots, shoots, nuts and berries had been gathered, our ancestors spent hours involved in various forms of social interaction that we might categorize today as “play.” Young males would chase each other around and wrestle, vying for a place higher up in the tribe social strata. Children might also practice spear- or rock-throwing for accuracy or chase small animals just for sport. Some might spend time creating or grooming. To the extent that play was considered enjoyable, the net effect was to solidify social bonds and to prompt the release of endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) and to mitigate any lingering stress effects of life-threatening situations.
Spend some time each week involved in active play. In addition to allowing you to apply your fitness to a real-life situation, play helps dissipate some of the negative effects of the chronic stress hormones you’ve been accumulating through the week.
The Definitive Guide to Play
The Lost Art of Play: Reclaiming a Primal Tradition
Primal Play: Dance
My kids are all grown up now, but from talking to friends and colleagues with younger kids, it’s become clear that youth sports has become too serious. Kids compete too much and too early. They overspecialize in sports at too young an age, then get burnt out and stop loving the sport altogether. They spend too much time doing the same thing with the same movement patterns. It monopolizes any free time the kids (and rest of family) have. And, perhaps most importantly, parents are too wrapped up in it all.
But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Kids love to play sports and need to move their bodies.
The foundation of all human movement is play—engaging in a broad spectrum of spontaneous moments, reacting to novel situations as they arise, associating movement with intrinsic reward and joy and pleasure. The problem is that the classic childhood culture of free play, which is how children have historically (and pre-historically) developed their ability to move through physical space and engage with the physical world, is disappearing from neighborhoods. Oftentimes the only chance a kid gets to move is by joining a competitive youth sports team.
Experts have long studied the benefits of play for children, and the evolutionary logic is undeniable.
Play introduces and hones practical skills like hunting, cooking, building, child care, and health care. Playing doctor? Cops and robbers? And so on.
Play teaches children social boundaries. If you’re nice enough but not too much, you can get your way without being a pushover or turning off potential friends.
Play teaches you to cooperate. If you don’t play well with others, other people won’t play with you. That’s no fun.
Play makes the body stronger, faster, and fitter.
Play is very important for child development. The benefits are well-established. Trust the Science. But what about play for adults?
Perimenopause and menopause comes with a complex web of physical, psychological, and social symptoms.
The treatment usually prescribed by doctors, hormone therapy (HT), is controversial and not appropriate for some women. I won’t get into the HT debate here—Mark did a great job covering the pros and cons recently. Suffice it to say that HT isn’t the answer for everyone, and it’s not a panacea by any means.
Whether or not they choose to go the HT route, many women desire additional support during perimenopause and beyond. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novella, I’m going to focus on mind-body therapies today.
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around my neighbor’s trampoline. It was an unsafe, wide open, enormous monstrosity of a trampoline. There was no net (this was the 60s after all), the springs were exposed and really good at snagging errant body parts, and it was conveniently located right next to a 5 foot wall that we’d jump from. I mean, how could you not? It was right there.
You’d bounce for hours, you’d bounce till your calves were on fire. You’d spend hours trying to perfect the front flip, and then the back flip. You’d have death matches where you and another guy would fly at each other from opposite ends of the trampoline, colliding in mid air and trying to knock the other on his back. We called it jousting.
Thankfully, there were no catastrophic injuries. No concussions, no hyperextended knees, no torn ligaments. I can’t even recall a broken bone.
It’s one thing to look at studies. What if we look at “finished products”? What if we look at whole organisms that appear to be doing things right and try to learn from them? People are always looking at the “Blue Zones” or this guru or that celebrity and trying to glean insights about healthy diet, lifestyle, and behavior. I say expand that outlook to encompass other populations you might not have considered. LIke kids.
Kids are kids. We tell them what to do, they learn from us, and they are put on this earth to watch us and do what we do. What if we flipped that? What can we learn from watching kids? How do children approach life, health, and movement—and what can we take from that approach and apply to our own lives?
Here’s what we can learn from kids.