“Men ought to know that from the brain and from the brain only arise our pleasures, joys, laughter, and jests as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. … It is the same thing which makes us mad or delirious, inspires us with dread and fear, whether by night or by day, brings us sleeplessness, inopportune mistakes, aimless anxieties, absent-mindedness and acts that are contrary to habit…” – Hippocrates

How might we put children in situations where they come to value and enjoy being physically active?

The better question is, how is this different for adults? Is it?

Last week we touched on the importance of getting our children to work out ..and how – but as adults, are we any better?

When kids hit adolescence (12-19 y/o ) the percentage of kids meeting activity recommendations significantly drops to from 42% of kids to 8%!

8% in adolescence…do you think that miraculously improves once they became an adult with a career and kids and school and everything else happening?

“Only 3.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 do the minimum amount of physical activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services (150 minutes a week of moderate activity).

Take a guess…it must get better after 59?

Over age 60, the percentage is even lower…2.5 percent

Children who watch TV for 3+ hours a day have  65% higher chance of being obese than children who watch for <1 hour. We give children a hard time for being attached to their screens, but ask yourself how many hours a day you are staring at your computer during work. I challenge you to track yourself this week. You’ll discover the results can be brutally alarming. 

It’s easy it is to sit back and kick in on the couch after a long day. Moving is exerting. As a recently retired collegiate athlete, I now have the option to set my schedule like the average college student.

So what did I do last week – I put this to the test.

Playing. 

Three college roommates took it upon themselves to conduct a personal experiment. Each evening would end as it would circa 2000. The activity varied by day – kickball in the street, biking, going to the park, rip-sticking (all for the sake of science, right?). They played outside after school under dark.

The Results: We need to change the focus of where we find pleasure in the experience. 

I had the honor of speaking and listening to one of the leading researchers in the topic of the exercising brain this week, Dr. Rod Dishman, to better understand the interaction between physiology and psychology.

With over 200 publications of research on the effects and interactions between the brain and exercise, he’s discovering support of exercise in more ways than we once realized – but what good does knowing these benefits do unless we can apply it to making changes in our health?

I had the chance to ask Dr. Dishman how we can take the ground breaking neuroscience of exercise and apply it to public health through motivation. His unique experience applying the science to behavior through motivation is game-changing.

We forgot how to ‘play’. 

‘Play’ get’s lost as we grow old – we forget the enjoyment in a game of kickball with our neighbors, or rollerblading on a nice spring afternoon.

“Exercise is like hitting our hand with a hammer, it feels good once you stop” – Dr. Dishman

What does it all come down to? Our experience. 

We need to figure out how we can change our perception and interpret “feeling good”….via the exercise experience we have and the enjoyment we take from it.

It’s our nature to seek beneficial experiences. Of course, we know there are many benefits to exercise – but we can’t feel our bone density increasing, BDNF releasing from our brain, new blood vessels forming, our blood lipid levels changing.

Let’s use one of the best examples in science – fatigue. Of course your first reaction when tired isn’t “Wow! I should go run…maybe I’ll have more energy!”…that’s nuts. Why would running GIVE you energy…it’s exerting.

The act of exerting ourselves seems counterintuitive. However, people who exercise regularly can attest to the differences in energy level and know when they feel sluggish, while it might be hard to get off the couch – it increases feelings of energy and decreases feelings of fatigue.

This is how we need to look at exercise.

We can notice adjustments in our sleep, our mental clarity, our behavior – these are obvious changes if we become mindful of them.

We must find ways to enjoy the experience and further find pleasure in the results – such as feeling good after a workout or improved productivity. As we become aware of these benefits, we will soon anticipate that pleasure and associate it with activity.

HOW:

Broaden the menu” – Reintroduce ‘play’. Surround yourself with an energizing community through a fitness class. Associate activity with a ‘break’ not exertion. Take the dog on run, or the kids for a bike ride. Make activity your solution for a long day that leaves you ready for bed, clears your head, and maybe energizes your brain to get out that last email before you decide to call it a night…even more – see the long-term benefits. Play.

How are you finding ways to incorporate breaks of activity in your day? Do something this week to bring back play.

Written by Amanda Presgraves. Amanda is a senior Kinesiology major, Division I student-athlete and entrepreneur at James Madison University. As an advocate of health and personal growth, she’s on a constant pursuit to optimize life and inspire others through her commitment to healthy living. If you can’t find Amanda bouncing between the classroom, pool, kitchen, or volunteering, you can find her online as she continues to lead and motivate others towards a happier and improved life at COR through her article contributions, newsletters and community motivation. @amandapgraves.