Living Well – Exercise is best when it feels like play

Vicky Trill's monthly column about exercise and staying fit, from children to seniors.

Last week, I enjoyed playing with some elementary students. Thanks to a generous United Way grant, Ashcroft Elementary School has been able to provide Active After School programs. On Mondays, kids learn basketball skills and games and on Thursdays, kids learn the art of orienteering and while following a map, they run and search.

What I enjoy most about programs and events like this is that you have so much fun, that you barely notice all the exercise you’re getting.

It is said that those who are involved in sport as a youth are twice as likely to continue being active and fit throughout their lives. I guess part of this may be due to good habit forming, but I wonder if some of the reason is that we learn that moving and playing is just plain fun!

Last year, I led a run club for elementary students where we practiced running long and short distances, did speed drills and practiced pacing. I noticed that after the first week, more than half of the students had quit. I wondered, “What did they think they would do at run club?” After another week of that, there were just a small handful of runners left. I finally thought, maybe it was time to change something.

So I changed the focus of the run club from skills development to fun. The next run club consisted of all kinds of fun and silly games…all of which included running short and long distances as well as running quickly and moderately. At the end of the run club that day, the kids had run hard and long, and they had a great time. I overhead a parent ask their child what they did and they replied, “Just played games.” When the parent asked, “Did you run?” the child replied, “No”. I loved the answer. They had so much fun, they didn’t realize they had worked hard and ran for almost a full hour!

It’s not just the kids who have fun while they move around. Drop in sometime, (or better yet join in) to the Seniors’ exercise class in Cache Creek. Here is a group that laughs while they sweat. Whether they are walking around the park, playing basketball with balloons or balancing on a ball, there is laughter all around and you can often hear someone say, “Are we done already?”

Exercise shouldn’t be dreaded, find something you enjoy. Maybe playing a sport, hiking, or just movement with friends. When you enjoy these exercises regularly. Not only will you be living a healthy, active life, but this healthy living will also stay with you for a life time.

Vicky Trill