Why the Health Benefits of Play Extend Well Beyond Childhood

Everyone searches for a way to be healthier when they grow up, but they don’t realize that the past can affect them more than they might be willing to admit. Playing strengthens children mentally and physically and continues once they outgrow the playground. 

The benefits of play in adulthood are much the same — but as people age, activity is more crucial than ever. Active children are set up to have better adulthoods than their counterparts who didn’t play enough, but everyone can make movement a part of their lifestyle, no matter how old they are.

Physical Benefits of Play in Adulthood

Children may not think about how playing could benefit them in the future. How could they? They’re just having fun in the moment — not knowing that their movement today will help them years later. The physical benefits of play in adulthood entail staying active, despite the busier schedule, which might increase your energy and encourage activity.

Continued Daily Activity

Many adults live sedentary lives. Those at desk jobs rarely get the chance to move around during the day unless they make time to walk throughout their break. The target activity level for adults is about 300 minutes of exercise per week, meaning you must stand up occasionally. People who have made a habit of movement since childhood likely have the energy they need to stay active.

The motivation to move can continue into adulthood. When you have other activities to keep you busy, you’ll be less likely to turn to a phone or television to occupy your time. You won’t be stagnant. Encouraging your kids to play will foster a healthy habit they can carry throughout their lives.

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Improved Balance and Flexibility

Kids who challenge themselves physically see the fruit of their labor. More active children learn to control their movements better, leading to greater balance and flexibility. They can engage in more activities, which may lead to stronger bones and muscles. Into adulthood, they may retain greater flexibility and balance from practicing as a kid. Fortunately, these traits can also lead to fewer injuries if they were to fall as an adult. It’s a win-win situation that only takes a little bit of playing every day in childhood.

Negate Health Risks

People who were active children squash many potential risks they could encounter in adulthood. Since health risk factors follow kids into adulthood, play is essential to keep them moving, reducing future preventable issues.

For example, being too stagnant could lead to cardiovascular issues or blood clots. Active people slowly decrease that risk. Physical activity, even something as small as a walk every evening, can benefit you more than you realize. An active child might turn into an active adult who doesn’t have the same health risks as their co-worker who didn’t get as much time to play as a kid. They could turn into someone who doesn’t think twice about getting their activity in for their health.

Mental Benefits of Play in Adulthood

Play can challenge a kid’s physical skills, but it can also fortify their mental strength. These benefits don’t apply to every child, but activity can introduce them to what movement can do for their brains. Adults who remember the benefits of play can turn to it to rediscover inner strength. Additionally, many soft skills kids hone on the playground can translate to the workplace.

Greater Social Skills

Even the most introverted person will have unavoidable interactions with other people. Encouraging your child to play while they’re young can help them build social skills that carry them through school and into the working world. Communication and empathy can be learned on the playground thanks to children interacting with peers of different backgrounds. 

Kids who learn to interact with people different from and similar to them feel more prepared to talk and relate to others — and they won’t fear communicating with someone with a different perspective. Playtime can unite kids over small things, showing them they can come together to work on large tasks, too.

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Increased Self-Esteem

Children like to challenge themselves. Playgrounds are excellent opportunities to build the physical and mental skills needed to carry themselves through life. Developing them will make them more confident in their abilities — especially when they can showcase them to the people they care about. Self-esteem on the playground can turn into confidence in the classroom and self-assuredness in the workplace.

Adults who formerly challenged themselves on the playground might continue to do so in their studies or work responsibilities. They may have the self-assurance it takes to swap careers when one job no longer serves them. You might also spring at the opportunity for a promotion since you’re confident you can complete requirements and expectations.

Regulated Mood

Regular exercise changes your brain chemistry. Physical activity promotes monoamines and contains neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which help balance your mood and keep you feeling your best. People with depression tend to have lower levels of these neurotransmitters, meaning something as small as half an hour of activity can completely change your outlook. 

The effects on mental health alone are enough to encourage people to go out and stay active. Someone who played often in childhood will continue in adulthood, reaping the mental benefits of staying active. While activity alone can’t prevent depression, it can help boost your mood and make you realize things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

The Benefits of Play in Adulthood Abound

People who think of play typically picture kids running around on playgrounds or cycling through neighborhoods in groups. The benefits of play in adulthood are unmatched, as what people learn as children can carry over, no matter what their life is like. An adult who played often might rely on old tactics to feel better about themselves, mentally and physically. Encourage your kids to play whenever possible — you never know just how it could benefit them once they grow up.


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Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.