I often get asked "How can you WORK OUT as much as you do?" Many regular (and "I should be regular") exercisers moan about their dislike for WORKING OUT but indicate their willingness to grudgingly do it because they should or need to.

When I go into a fitness facility or see exercise equipment I don't think of WORKOUTS. I see a playground and toys! When I walk into the weight room, it's like carnival equipment (very slow moving) and that indicates play. When I put on my inline skates, my mind is far removed from WORK and is focused on how much fun it will be to feel that freedom of the wind rushing by me as I coast downhill or the exciting challenge of racing uphill.

When I teach an exercise class, I have a roomful of playmates. It's unpredictable as to when I'll get an attack of the "crazies" and instead of dignified step aerobics we end up playing a fast paced follow-the-leader around, over, in-between, and under (just kidding) using the steps as an obstacle course. I love sharing my toys with others - hand weights, resistance bands, slide boards, jump ropes, become part of the game. Partner exercise activities and races add to the fun.

Have I mentioned how much I love my group fitness classes? On Wednesday’s we exercise (play) on the big rubber balls (resistance balls). You can sit on them, bounce with them, lie on your stomach and roll around. You can lift weights while sitting on a ball. You can do balance activities with them. You can toss them, bounce them, lie on your back on them…everyone in class has rolled off of the ball in the learning process. It’s not a big distance to the floor, and kind of fun. It takes most people about a month to learn the balance needed on the ball. The great thing about these balls is if you maintain “good” body alignment you also give your abdominal muscles something to write home about! We have fun during our ball play and we don’t care what we look like. We call the class “Cirque de All Age.” We aren’t quite ready for Las Vegas, but once we learn to stand on the balls and juggle we will audition!

I don't think I could be very active if it was WORK to me. Call it the Peter Pan Syndrome, but if adult fitness requires being serious, then I'll never grow up! I would probably not exercise if I had to be serious about activity. This doesn't mean that I don't care about safety and proper exercise form and technique; getting injured is not fun. Even as a kid I drew the line at leaping like a monkey between widely spaced trees. But a playful mental attitude can make a big difference in whether a person sticks with activity

Play has a lot of benefits:
Fitness becomes the by-product of having fun.
• Doing different activities and games helps prevent injury and boredom.
• You develop your body's awareness and sensory systems, becoming more coordinated
• You develop problem solving abilities because when you play, you use your imagination.
• Taking playful risks by learning new games and activities builds self confidence
• Play relieves stress.

There are 5 components which define play:
• It is intrinsically motivating, an end to itself, just for fun.
• It is freely chosen and voluntary with no pressure to perform.
• It is pleasurable and fun to the participant.
• It is non-literal and includes make-believe.
• The players are actively engaged mentally and physically, not spectators.

ANY activity can be play. It's just your attitude! Pretend and use your imagination. Even if you are a beginner, you can pretend to be in the Tour de France on your new bike. Learning a new sport or activity is less serious and embarrassing when you play with it and allow your body to gradually and naturally kick your nervous system into gear, building new nerve-to-muscle pathways. Let your neighborhood become your gym and use the environment for your exercise stations. You can vary your routine every time you go outside just by going different directions.

Play tag, climb trees, ladders, walls, find obstacles to play on and around. Go to a playground and do Circuit Training. While biking or skating, play Hide and Seek or have relay races. If you have kids, play with them! If you don't have your own, borrow some and go to the playground or park. Don't watch, play! Do you remember the games you played as a child? My favorites included Redlight/Greenlight and Blindman's Bluff.

Play is vital for physical and emotional health of everyone, including Moon Goddesses. Find the child inside you that wants and needs to play, then let it happen. By reintroducing play into your busy life you become more productive and it's FUN!! Think about your fitness session for today and add some play to it! What did you do differently?

Author's Bio: 

I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. Having years of experience in dance and theater, teaching movement and exercise in creative ways is my goal. While I have spent years as a personal trainer, wellness consultant, an college instructor, my passion is in group fitness and dance. I have a Masters Degree in Wellness Programming and have presented numerous workshops at local and national fitness conferences, including Club Industry. I am also the director on the National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC) which trains and certifies personal trainers, wellness consultants, and group fitness instructors.