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Category: Paleo Diet

  • John Madsen’s Nutrition Journey & What All Athletes Must Know! Former Oakland Raider (NFL)

  • It Felt Like a Rebirth Into Living

    Post From https://www.marksdailyapple.com/it-felt-like-a-rebirth-into-living/

    It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

    It all began back in March of 2011 when I stepped on the scale for my semi-annual military weigh-in. The scale menacingly peaked at 195 pounds, which seemed outrageous to me. Over the next few days I couldn’t shake a feeling of self-diminishment. I mean, here I was, fresh off of completing the Miami Marathon which had been preceded by 18 weeks of focused training and I had GAINED weight?! I was incredulous! I tried to rationalize it away by telling myself that the scale was likely off, or that my running shorts and socks probably added a couple of pounds. But honestly, when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see the guy who ran cross country and weighed 165 pounds back in high school and college. Heck, I couldn’t even see the “healthy” guy I thought I was 10 pounds ago. I was burdened by the feeling that my 30-pound weight gain was the start of an inevitable decent into outright obesity.

    Days later, some of my office mates began talking about how their Crossfit gym was doing a Paleo diet challenge. As a self identified runner I was cynical on Crossfit, and as a Crossfit cynic I was even more contemptuous about what I viewed as a Crossfit diet. On and on they went, over the course of the next few weeks talking about the food they were eating, the weight they were losing, and how good they felt. Like a religious skeptic I finally decided to research what they were doing with food, if only to prove it wrong. So I bought The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain.

    I’m an impatient person though, and so while waiting for the book to arrive I started Google searching “paleo” and stumbled across Mark’s Daily Apple. I think the first post I read was The Definitive Guide to Grains, and I was hooked. I began to consume the past blog posts like a ravenous animal, reading every Definitive Guide, checking all the hyperlinked references, and taking notes. The blog posts, especially the ones about sugar, carbs, vegetable oils, and grains were describing symptoms that I didn’t even realize I had. I assumed that weight gain, joint inflammation, constipation, frequent sickness, lack of energy, and trouble focusing were a normal part of the human condition for someone close to entering their 30s. I mean, after all, that’s what my doctor had told me at my previous annual physical.

    So I went for it, and just jumped into the proverbial pool head first from the 10-meter platform. I followed Mark’s weekly health challenge to clean out the pantry from a post I found from way back on 12 February 2007, yes I still remember that simple blog post. I emptied out all the soda (my normal post marathon training workout recovery drink), ditched the bagels (daily breakfast), threw away the loaves of bread (lunch time sandwiches), trashed the chips and cookies (lunch sides and pre workout snack), deep-sixed the instant pasta sides and frozen garlic bread (normal dinner side dish), disposed of all the…oh wait, did I mention my wife was 8 months pregnant for the first time? Yeah so I ended up going back out to the store and buying sodas, bagels, bread, chips, cookies, pasta, and some ice cream to feed the standard American diet pregnancy cravings. Suffice it to say that she had no interest in starting some “fad diet” in the home stretch of bearing our first child. So we had an honest discussion about it and agreed that I would eat 100% Primal for 4 weeks but she would stay conventional for breakfast and lunch. She would join me in a Primal meal at dinner time provided I cooked it.

    Those 4 weeks felt like a rebirth into LIVING.

    I shed 15 pounds effortlessly while cooking meals from The Paleo Diet book and from recipes on Mark’s Daily Apple. Many of the previously mentioned symptoms improved quickly and some went away completely in those 4 short weeks. I also started to embrace Mark’s emphasis on intuitively understanding my body and observed, for example, that eliminating salt (as advised in The Paleo Diet book) gives me bad charley horses at night. That intuition of the positive and negative effects on my body has been huge over the years as I continue to experiment with slight alterations to my eating and lifestyle.

    After those 4 weeks I never looked back. I ditched the chronic cardio and turned my new found diet into a lifestyle. While I was the Primal fanatic, I like to jokingly refer to my wife as a slow adopter. My gateway to a Primal lifestyle was a desire to lose some weight, something she has never struggled with. She started to come around, however, after seeing the myriad additional benefits. Among other things, her chronic digestive issues have been largely corrected through experimentation with eliminating dairy and supplementing probiotics.

    Fast forwarding the story to a year ago, my wife’s mom was diagnosed with advanced bile duct cancer. Her body rapidly withered away and she passed in only a few weeks’ time. Part of our cathartic release involved reading every book we could find on the interrelated topics of cancer, metabolism, and lifestyle. We decided to take our Primal lifestyle to the next level by eliminating toxins in our home, improving our sleep, experimenting with Ketosis, eating the highest quality nutrient dense foods we can find, and getting more serious about fitness (I even do Crossfit now – from skeptic to convert!). Each of these has had lasting and noticeable positive impacts on our lives.

    Our family of five is now fully Primal and loving it. We both feel like this lifestyle provides its own feedback mechanism. Whenever we partake in the standard American diet, whether at a dinner party or visiting friends and family, our bodies remind us of why we rejected it in favor of a Primal lifestyle!

    Lastly I want to talk briefly about kids and encourage other Primal parents out there. Our three kids (7, 5, and 1) very rarely eat sandwiches, have had cereal maybe three or four times, and have never tasted soda. They love eating unwashed carrots straight out of the garden and liverwurst fried up in grass-fed butter. I say this not to brag, but to embolden parents who are worried about enforcing this lifestyle on their children as some of my peers have lamented. My personal observation is that kids raised on the tastes of real foods crave the genuine and unadulterated flavor of things like eggs, purple sweet potato, and dry roasted nuts. Yes, they still desire processed junk, but out of its novelty not out of sugar addiction, and they will readily eat whatever Primal offering is put before them.

    For anyone struggling to transition kids from a standard American diet to Primal there is hope as well. Our family has seen the benefits with the foster children that we care for. On the first morning with our first foster child, a 4-year-old boy, I asked him what he wanted for breakfast. Without skipping a beat, he un-ironically demanded “Coke and a snickers.” We compromised on a smoothie with lots of ripe banana. Over time, with steady work and gentleness, we transitioned him from his normal candy and pizza to steak and buttered broccoli. His health improved DRAMATICALLY. We’ve since repeated that amazing reversal with another little 3-year-old boy who arrived in our home overweight, suffering from sleep apnea, full of cavities, and chronically sick. As we slowly reduced their sugar intake, we saw remarkable improvements in the physical and emotional health of these precious children. In the end, the difficulty of transitioning them off the garbage was absolutely worth the benefits.

    Thanks to Mark, WorkerBees, and all leaders in the Paleo/Primal community who have mentored me from afar, I’m forever grateful!

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    The post It Felt Like a Rebirth Into Living appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

  • My Hair Essentials for Thick, Shiny, Hair: Update

  • The top 6 things your doctor needs to know about a Paleo Diet

  • Low-Carb Mug Cake

    Post From https://www.marksdailyapple.com/low-carb-mug-cake/

    Admittedly, it’s hard to believe that a chocolate cake made in a microwave without flour or sugar could taste any good. This low-carb mug cake defies the odds. It has dark chocolate flavor, a soft, cakey texture and bits of real dark chocolate that melt in your mouth.

    This low-carb mug cake recipe works because it has the right balance of ingredients—one egg yolk, a little butter and cream, almond flour and dark chocolate. In less than a minute the ingredients bake together into a perfect little treat, and your kitchen is filled with the amazing aroma of chocolate cake.

    Make this mug cake even more decadent by pouring melted dark chocolate or whole cream over the warm cake when it’s done.

    Time in the Kitchen: 5 minutes

    Servings: 1 cake

    Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (15 grams)
    • 2 tablespoons super fine almond flour (14 grams)
    • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder (5 grams)
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder (2.5 ml)
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 tablespoon heavy cream (15 ml)
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (1.2 ml)
    • 8 drops liquid stevia https://www.marksdailyapple.com/stevia-vs-truvia/ (add more, or less, depending on your preference)
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 9 grams (3 squares) dark chocolate (85% cacao), chopped

    Instructions

    Melt the butter into a small mug, in the microwave (about 20 seconds).

    Mix in the almond flour, cacao powder, baking powder and a tiny pinch of salt until thick and smooth.

    Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and liquid stevia. Mix until smooth, then add the egg yolk and mix again until smooth.

    Stir in the dark chocolate.

    Put the mug back in the microwave and cook for 50 seconds. Microwaves vary, so the exact cooking time can vary as well, but overcooking the mug cake will make it dry and burn the bits of dark chocolate. Error on the side of undercooking, rather than overcooking the cake.

    This low carb mug cake has the best texture and flavor when it’s freshly baked and warm, so enjoy immediately!

    • Calories: 362
    • Fat: 33.6 grams
    • Protein: 7 grams
    • Carbs: 10.4 grams

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    The post Low-Carb Mug Cake appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

  • TPV Podcast, Ep. 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

    Post From https://www.thepaleomom.com/tpv-podcast-ep-316-is-the-carnivore-diet-healthy/

    In this episode, Stacy and Sarah are worried about the growing popularity of the carnivore diet. Where did this bizarre idea come from and why is it that people claim that it makes them feel good? And why is Sarah pulling out her hair in frustration about this topic?

    Click here to listen in iTunes

    or download and listen by clicking the PodBean Player below

    If you enjoy the show, please review it in iTunes!

    The Paleo View (TPV), Episode 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy?

      • Intro (0:00)
      • News and Views (0:40)
        • Welcome back! Sarah is steamed like a veggie and ready to climb onto a soapbox!
        • We thought that we had this covered when we emphasized how important veggies were to your health is shows like Episode 281 and Episode 286
        • But the carnivore trend has been persistent, so we thought we should address it directly
        • We’ve been hearing about it for a while, but it first came to our attention with a viral video about a man who only fed his family steak.
        • Stacy was shocked! How are those kids getting their nutrients?!
      • Question from Anna: “My husband has heard from several successful people who swear by a carnivore diet (Zooko Wilcox for example). It’s a diet that cuts out plant foods, which to me sounds absolutely horrendous, but he wanted to try it because he has a much higher need for protein than I do and is usually craving red meat. I told him he was crazy, but spent the next 2 days essentially shoving red meat down his throat. This convinced him that consuming only meat was maybe a little much and he’s back on the green wagon with me. It did leave me wondering though as to the potential for a carnivore diet to work with some people. Meat has all 20 amino acids and if you include organ meat, then I wonder if that would cover all your bases for vitamins and minerals. I’m curious, is there is any validity to such a diet if done right? Or if it is just slowly breaking down the body by depleting the consumer of some (or several) things?”
        • Stacy questions Anna’s consumption of Oreos, while Sarah is totally on board.
        • Stacy recommends Trader Joe’s Jojos, while Sarah prefers the dairy-free Glutino chocolate sandwich cookies.
      • Question from Janet: “I’ve been on the AIP for quite a while now, and was on a more general paleo diet for years before that. I think I know *a bit* about healthy eating at this point, and understand the general concepts. But, I’ve been hearing about the carnivore diet lately, and it’s leaving me stumped. I’ve heard anecdotes about it curing autoimmune issues (I’m assuming because it cuts out the same foods AIP does, plus a whole lot more), making people feel younger, people losing weight, and somehow also still feeling healthy. Someone close to me (no, this isn’t a “a friend wanted me to ask you…” question) is considering it, and before I scream “NO!” I thought I’d see if you ladies had any input… What’s the science? Is there any? Shouldn’t they all have scurvy? How can they not be incredibly sick, without any vegetables in their life?”
        • Diet was pioneered by Shawn Baker who will sell you the Carnivore Diet System coaching. That’s a red flag!
        • Check out our Insulin show about why at least some carbs are important as well as our show about the dangers of ketogenic diets.
        • Shawn Baker had his medical license revoked in 2017 in part for incompetence.’
        • He was taken seriously because he was a good athlete (records in indoor rowing) and so seemed to “prove” that it worked
        • Only one study, a case study, from the 30s investigated a carnivore diet. A man attempted to copy the Inuit diet and Belview hospital observed him. Back then, though, our ability to measure health wasn’t as advanced. He was eating a lot of organ meat, including raw organ meat.
        • He didn’t get scurvy, but that’s probably due to the raw organ meat, which has Vitamin C.
        • Meanwhile, Shawn Baker isn’t eating organ meat and hasn’t done any bloodwork to check in on his health at all! He’s also spending so much time attacking science and claiming outlandish claims about mineral demands of the body go down when you eat only meat.
        • He’s advocating a diet that will hurt people AND sowing distrust of science and the scientific method!
        • Yes, science can change, but the method is refining our knowledge and it gives us a base to point to when we try to decide what will be best.
        • Many people out there are trying to prey upon people’s trust for money.
        • There are lots of carnivore diet articles that address short time success. But honestly, that’s probably due to the boredom effect: eating the same food over and over again will make you eat less of it, reducing calorie intake.
        • Also, meat is highly satiating, meaning you are satisfied quicker and longer, leading to reduced caloric intake.
        • And rapid weight loss is not great and if you do it with a nutrient deficiency you will cause health issues!
        • The claims of nutrient requirements going down is not backed up by scientific studies
        • While we find evolutionary biology to be fascinating, it’s not proof of anything. It functions as a hypothesis for nutritional science.
        • Despite what is claimed, hunter-gatherers when through great lengths to find vegetable material to eat! Even the Inuits had a lot of plants in their diet, about 15%.
        • The farther south you go, the more plant matter is consumed by hunter-gatherers, up to more than 50%!
        • There are no vegan hunter-gatherers and there are no carnivore hunter-gatherers! Everyone is an omnivore
        • Often meat consumption is over estimated because male ethnographers mainly studied male hunters, not the gatherer section of the population
        • People will cite studies of “carnivore” hunter-gatherers that do not support such a claim at all!
        • Three main things missing on a carnivore diet: Vitamin C, fiber for the gut microbiome, and phytochemicals
        • We get a lot of Vitamin C added in things with citric acid, ascorbic acid, etc. which often will stave off scurvy
        • Fiber is the main food of the most beneficial gut microbes. Cutting them out could make you sick!
        • Plant phytochemicals are anti-aging and anti-cancer!
        • Also not enough folate, Vitamin E and Vitamin K.
        • Scurvy symptoms take a while to show up. We store vitamin C, so it takes time to deplete it. Also, small amounts can stave off the major symptoms
        • Scurvy is a thing! A study found Vitamin C deficiency in 5-17% of the population, especially in younger people. Is that because of low carb diets?
        • Scurvy takes about a month to start setting in, more or less. Initially, there are flu like symptoms: feeling unwell, fatigue, fever, nausea, diarrhea, pain in joints and muscles, bleeding at hair follicles.
        • Major symptoms: bleeding gums, loose teeth, bulging eyes, brown and scaly skin, bruising, breaking hair, slow healing woulds, bleeding and swelling joints. It’s very hard to get to that point in modern society!
        • People talk about a lot of symptoms on carnivore forums. They’re often scurvy symptoms or GI issues from shifts in gut microbiome.
        • Sarah talks about the gut microbiome in What Is the Gut Microbiome? And Why Should We Care? and also in her fiber ebook Fantastic Fiber
        • Many things are labeled as “non-essential” nutrients. But these are nutrients that you don’t need to keep living, but are probably essential to good health! You still want and need them!
        • This is all why our paleo diet emphasizes vegetable consumption.
      • Get your questions in! We want to hear from you! And there’s no end to questions we can answer and topics we can address!
      • Engage on social media! That’s how we get feedback!
      • Thank you for listening!

     

    Relevant posts

    The Link Between Meat and Cancer

    The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 1: Evolution & Hunter-Gatherers

    The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 2: Physiological & Biological Evidence

    The Diet We’re Meant to Eat, Part 3: How Much Meat versus Veggies?

    The Case for More Carbs: Insulin’s Non-Metabolic Roles in the Human Body

    The Importance of Vegetables

    Is It Better to Eat Veggies Raw or Cooked?

    The Importance of Nutrient Density

    The post TPV Podcast, Ep. 316: Is the Carnivore Diet Healthy? appeared first on The Paleo Mom.

  • Art of the Grill at Whole Foods Market!

    Post From https://nomnompaleo.com/art-of-the-grill-at-whole-foods-market

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Love grilling, but too hot and tired to throw together dinner? Well, I’ve got some exciting news for you…

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    …I’ve teamed up with Chef Melissa King and Chef Tu David Phu on a fun summer collaboration called “Art of the Grill” to share some of our favorite tasty recipes at Whole Foods Market locations throughout Northern California and Reno, Nevada!

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    We each have offerings that are pre-marinated and ready-to-grill in the butcher and seafood counter, as well as ready-to-eat selections at the chef’s case in the deli section!

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    From now until the end of September 2018, you can buy my tandoori-marinated chicken and skewers at the butcher and seafood counters to toss on the grill. See?

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Plus, if you don’t feel like cooking, you can just wander to the chef’s case and pick up my ready-to-eat Tandoori Chicken Wings…

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    …Tandoori Shrimp Skewers…

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    …Watermelon + Cucumber Salad…

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    …and Spicy Mango Cabbage Slaw!

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    These dishes are all Whole30-friendly and based on my recipes, so if you live in Northern California or Reno, you really have no excuse not to level up your next barbecue!

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Whether you’re looking for some tasty stuff to throw on the grill—like pre-marinated tandoori skewers or chicken thighs—or grabbing pre-made food to chow on ASAP, I’ve got you covered this summer. But hurry and go get some before everything’s gone!

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Oh—and while you’re cruising by the butcher counter…

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    …don’t forget to stock up on my Magic Mushroom Powder! My own blend of umami-licious awesomeness is now on the stock list at all Whole Foods Markets in the United States—but you should call your local store to check if they have it on hand. (From my own experience visiting Whole Foods Market locations across the U.S., some stores haven’t dedicated shelf space to Magic Mushroom Powder, but keep tins of MMP in the stock room; other stores have run out and haven’t re-stocked. If that’s the case, ask the store to re-order it so you can pick some up later!)

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Not near a participating Whole Foods Market? No worries—you can recreate these dishes at home by following my recipes for Super Easy Tandoori Chicken, Mexican Watermelon Salad, and Spicy Mango Cabbage Slaw. Yes, it’ll take a little more elbow grease, but the results will be delicious.

    Whole Foods Market: Art of the Grill by Michelle Tam https://nomnompaleo.com

    Happy eating and grilling!

    (Top photo credit: Whole Foods Market Northern California)


    Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!

    Recipe IndexNom Nom Paleo CookbooksNom Nom Paleo App

    The post Art of the Grill at Whole Foods Market! appeared first on Nom Nom Paleo®.

  • Why is our food making everyone so sick?

  • Fall Essentials: Clothing

  • 10 Benefits of Play

    Post From https://chriskresser.com/10-benefits-of-play/

    This young man is experiencing the benefits of play while he plays a guitar.

    In the public mind, play has long been relegated to the confines of childhood. However, a rapidly expanding body of research indicates that this perspective is inaccurate and outdated. In fact, play isn’t just for kids—adults need play, too. It’s an intrinsic human need throughout the lifespan that benefits our bodies and brains, helps us build and maintain healthy relationships, and even enhances our creativity and productivity at work.

    Read on to learn about the 10 benefits of play in childhood and adulthood and how to incorporate more play into your life.

    What Is Play?

    Before diving into a discussion of the benefits of play, it helps to understand what defines play.

    Play is an activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, rather than any serious or practical purpose.

    It is voluntary, spontaneous, and stress-free. For many people, play also occurs “outside of time and self,” meaning that we become less conscious of time, and of our own bodies and idiosyncrasies, when we play.

    Play includes a variety of pursuits as diverse as peekaboo and paintball, stickball on the beach and adult softball leagues, roughhousing and rock climbing. Play can be free and unhindered by rules or structured and codified, such as in the games of soccer and golf.

    Play can also be solitary or social—the individual whipping up a new recipe in his kitchen is “playing” just as much as a group of children running around outside playing tag on a beautiful summer day. It takes countless forms that vary depending on an individual’s age, personality, and unique interests.

    Think playtime is just for kids? Think again. Check out the top 10 benefits of play and learn how to incorporate a little more irreverence into your life.

    Here are just a few examples of play that you or your children likely engage in on a regular basis:

    • Roughhousing with pets or children
    • Playing make-believe
    • Playing organized sports such as soccer, baseball, or basketball
    • Engaging in other forms of physical activity such as rock climbing, skiing, surfing, or ultimate Frisbee
    • Playing board games
    • Dancing
    • Going outside and walking in nature
    • Engaging in creative expression such as making art, music, gardening, or cooking a meal
    • Performing creative, innovative work (yes, work can be play!)
    • Engaging in playful banter at your job or a party
    • Having a playful relationship with your partner or spouse

    Imagine life without these activities. It wouldn’t be much fun, right? Without play, life becomes dull, and we quickly succumb to fatigue and pessimism due to the hectic busyness of our lives. Unfortunately, our society has long devalued play, instead placing emphasis on the importance of constantly engaging in “productive” activities.

    Dorothy Sluss, a professor of early childhood education, has gone so far as to state, “We don’t value play in our society. It has become a four-letter word.” (1)

    However, if play is truly purposeless, as some scientists have led us to believe, then why has it persisted throughout the animal kingdom and human history, and why does it feel so essential to our well-being? Assessing play from an evolutionary perspective can help us answer this question.

    The Evolutionary Origins of Play

    Anyone who has ever watched a dog perform a “play bow” with its forelegs extended, rump in the air, and a goofy, expectant look on its face or seen dolphins chasing each other gleefully in the ocean understands that humans are not the only animals who love to play.

    Dogs, dolphins, otters, killer whales, bears, and birds all engage in play. In fact, the smarter an animal is, the more it plays. Animals have unique play signals, such as a relaxed open-mouthed expression, that are recognized across species lines and invite others to join in the fun. Observations of animals at play have sparked scientific interest in the origins and utility of play.

    The Purpose of Play

    Scientists working in this field seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of play?”

    The overwhelming consensus is that play offers an evolutionary advantage to animals, including humans, by enhancing health and improving the ability to survive and reproduce.

    In fact, some scientists have gone so far as to theorize that play has become preventative to human extinction. (2)

    Scientists have observed that bears who play the most during adolescence live longer, healthier lives and leave more offspring behind, promoting the continuation of their species. (3) Rats who experience plenty of playtime as youngsters demonstrate enhanced brain growth and neuronal plasticity, processes that contribute to optimal motor control, balance, coordination, and social behavior throughout life. (4, 5)

    In humans, playfulness is associated with positive behaviors that enhance survival and quality of life, including:

    • Creativity
    • Productivity
    • Flexibility
    • Optimism
    • Empathy
    • Social altruism
    • Cooperation
    • Problem solving
    • An increased ability to manage stress

    Importantly, play also forges social connections and creates a sense of community and belonging. Play is now considered so crucial for child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. (6)

    What about Video Games and Mobile Games?

    The use of electronic media, including video games, cell phones, and iPads, plays a significant role in many children’s lives. Video games have exploded in popularity over the course of the past few decades, with a staggering 99 percent of American boys and 94 percent of American girls playing video games. (7) The amount of time children ages 8 and younger spend glued to screens, including iPads and cell phones, has increased steeply in the past decade, with most spending over two hours per day on screen media. (8) Some might argue that electronic media use constitutes a form of play.

    However, the real question is, are video games and cell phone/iPad games an ideal form of play for children?

    While some studies have shown that playing video games improves coordination and increases social behavior and learning, video games lack the interpersonal nuance and multisensory engagement that characterizes play in the “real world.” (9) Increased time spent playing on electronic devices also decreases time spent engaged in physical activity, outdoors, and building relationships with other children, which are key features of free play.

    There are also legitimate concerns about the addictive nature of video games and other forms of electronic media. (10) As such, video games should not be the sole source of play in a child or adult’s life.

    The 10 Benefits of Play

    Play has a wide variety of physical, mental, emotional, and social health benefits. Far from being a frivolous, purposeless activity, it’s crucial to the development of our physical bodies and brains and our cognitive, emotional, and social health.

    1. It Builds a Healthy Body

    Play is essential to the development of a robust, healthy body in childhood.

    When kids play, they develop reflexes and learn fine and gross motor skills, flexibility, and balancing skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Outdoor play benefits children’s physical health by exposing them to sunlight, natural environments, and fresh air, which contributes to bone formation and a robust immune system. (11, 12)

    By increasing physical activity, play also:

    • Builds muscle strength
    • Improves heart and lung function
    • Helps prevent obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol

    The rates of U.S. children suffering from chronic health conditions, including asthma, obesity, and diabetes, are rapidly rising. This research indicates that increased playtime should be a frontline intervention in our strategy to combat the chronic disease epidemic in children. (13)

    2. It Builds a Healthy Brain

    Play is an integral part of neurological growth and development in young animals and children. Research indicates that rates of play in mice correlate strongly with the rate of growth of their brains, particularly the cerebellum, a region associated with motor control. This seems to suggest that play performs a crucial role in shaping a mature brain capable of optimizing muscle control.

    In mice, play also promotes the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that mediates the growth, differentiation, and survival of neurons and establishes neuronal connections in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region intrinsically involved with cognition and emotion. (14)

    Conversations between adults and children occurring during play also strengthen neuronal connections in brain regions critical for language. (15)

    In other words, play is essential for the growth and development of a healthy, fully functional brain. (16) The brain health benefits of play don’t stop with children; in adults, play keeps the brain sharp and reduces stress. These effects may help stave off dementia, which could have a huge impact on the last 10 years of your life. (17)

    3. It Teaches Emotional Intelligence and Boosts Self-Esteem

    Imagine that you are four years old and building a block tower. Suddenly, another child runs up to your prized tower and knocks it down. What do you do? Tell your teacher? Inform the child that her actions are against the rules? Cry?

    Situations such as this frequently occur in unstructured play situations and are crucial for helping children learn how to feel and control and express their emotions. Less verbal children can express their views, experiences, and frustrations through play. The emotional intelligence forged during playtime will help a child navigate social situations and relationships throughout her life.

    In addition to creating emotional intelligence, play helps children develop healthy self-esteem. That endows a child with the confidence and resiliency she needs to find her place in the world and face future challenges. (18)

    4. Play Builds Healthy Friendships and Romantic Relationships

    The ability of play to forge emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with its ability to help children establish peer relationships and make friends. The unstructured nature of free play builds neuronal circuits in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which helps the brain (and child) navigate complex social interactions. (19)

    Friendship has a tremendous impact on our well-being. Preschool friendships help children develop social and emotional skills and promote a sense of belonging, while adult friendships provide a strong support network and help reduce stress. (20, 21)

    Conversely, a lack of friendship and feelings of social isolation tend to cause depression, chronic health issues, and a shorter lifespan. (22) Adult romantic partners who frequently engage in play experience reduced relational conflict, increased intimacy, and accumulate more “emotional capital,” which refers to collections of positive experiences that can be drawn upon in times of conflict. (23) Play also sparks feelings of excitement in romantic relationships and combats relationship boredom over the long run. (24)

    Play serves as a bridge that connects us to other people, helping us develop healthy relationships that will sustain us throughout our lives.

    5. It Forges a Healthy Parent–Child Relationship

    The developmental trajectory of children is mediated by relationships with parents and caregivers, and one of the primary ways these relationships develop is through play. (25)

    When parents play with their children, they are sending the child a simple message: you’re important to me. The undivided attention a parent gives his child during playtime lets a child know that he or she is valued, teaches the parent how to communicate more effectively with the child, and affords the opportunity for parents to offer nurturing, gentle guidance. Play can serve as a cornerstone in the foundation of a healthy, enduring parent–child relationship.

    6. It Teaches Cooperation

    When children engage in free play, they gain critical knowledge about how to cooperate with others. (26) Rather than relying on rules and regulations to govern their experiences, they must work together with their peers to create and achieve mutual goals. That cooperation may involve sharing, negotiating, and resolving conflicts. (27)

    The ability to cooperate with others, a skill learned through play, helps individuals navigate interpersonal interactions throughout their lives in school, work, and family settings.

    7. Play Teaches Problem Solving

    In children, free play encourages the development of a concept called divergent thinking, which refers to the ability to generate ideas by exploring many possible solutions. (28) Convergent problem solving, on the other hand, involves solving a problem that has a single solution.

    While convergent problem solving is emphasized in the classroom and on conventional intelligence tests, divergent problem solving is linked to creativity and is more applicable to the complex, nuanced world we live in. The ability to problem solve divergently, developed through the process of play, may help a child navigate the “real world,” as opposed to merely encouraging good performance on standardized tests.

    8. It Stimulates Creativity

    Many people consider creativity to be a special skill only possessed by a few fortunate individuals, such as artists and musicians. However, the truth is that all humans can be creative, and play is one method we can use to stimulate our innate creativity.

    The ability to be creative serves as a healthy outlet for children to express their emotions and reflect on their experiences. (29) In adults, play can water the seeds of creativity that may have been dormant since childhood. This may foster success at work, as they expand their ability to think “outside the box.” Enhanced creativity may also help adults better manage the stress and emotions drummed up in day-to-day life.

    9. It Improves Work Outcomes

    Imagine having the opportunity to play a pickup game of soccer over your lunch break, or the freedom to take 30 minutes out of your workday to dabble on an instrument or build a Lego structure at a designated “play” area in your company’s corporate office. For many adults, this situation sounds like a fantasy; for others, it is a reality.

    A growing number of organizations, including Facebook and LinkedIn, are embracing the idea of play at work because it can have beneficial effects on a variety of work outcomes. (30)

    For example, research has found that play at work:

    • Enhances job satisfaction
    • Increases creativity
    • Relieves boredom in a monotonous job
    • Enhances employees’ ability to deal with work-related stress (31, 32, 33, 34)

    Psychologist Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute of Play, has personally observed the positive effects of play on work performance:

    “When employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement, and morale … Not only does having a playful atmosphere attract young talent, but experts say play at work can boost creativity and productivity in people of all ages.” (35)

    Based on these studies and observations, office “playtime” may soon become the new-and-improved 21st-century version of the “water cooler break”!

    10. It Reduces Stress and Builds Resilience

    Unfortunately, modern-day life is fraught with psychological stress, and it can quickly overwhelm us if we fail to engage in stress-reduction activities.

    While contemplative practices such as meditation have their place in stress management, play serves a crucial but underappreciated role as a buffer that dampens the impact of daily stressors on health and modulates our interpretations and reactions to stressful events. (36)

    Studies on the benefits of play and its impact on stress have revealed some profound findings. A study comprising nearly 1,000 students recruited from three universities found that those students who described themselves as more playful reported lower levels of perceived stress than their less-playful counterparts. The “playful” students also demonstrated better coping strategies in stressful situations and were less likely to engage in negative behaviors commonly triggered by stress. (37)

    A study of older women involved in the Red Hat Society—“a playgroup for women created to connect like-minded women, make new friends and enrich lives through the power of fun and friendship”—also found that playfulness fostered resilience. It enabled the women to be more flexible in the face of adversity and bounce back quickly from difficult conditions. (38, 39)

    Play is a hallmark of the human species and a strong predictor of our health and well-being. Play creates the optimal developmental milieu to prepare children physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially for the experiences and challenges of life. In adults, it nurtures faculties that may have been lost over time, such as creativity and emotional expression, while:

    • Bolstering brain health
    • Facilitating productivity at work
    • Decreasing the health risks associated with isolation, loneliness, and chronic stress

    While researchers have taken a keen interest in the abundant health benefits of play, many have also observed and come to understand the profound health consequences of a lack of play, referred to as “play deprivation.” Just as play is an index of health, play deprivation is a strong predictor of numerous adverse health outcomes.

    The Harmful Effects of Play Deprivation

    Whereas abundant play enhances survival and quality of life, a lack of play has serious repercussions for physical, mental, and emotional health. “Play deprivation” is a term used to describe the adverse developmental, emotional, and social repercussions of a lack of play.

    Unfortunately, our hurried lifestyles, declines in recess time at school, and an increased emphasis on academic achievement and high-stakes athletic activities for children leave kids with little time for idle, creative, unstructured play. This observation is backed up by alarming statistics: A recent survey found that the average kindergarten offers far less free play time than is recommended for optimal child development, and another survey found that the number of schools with at least one recess period decreased by nearly 30 percent between 1989 and 1999. (40, 41)

    In the pursuit of higher academic scores, athletic achievement, and other “enrichment” activities, play deprivation is becoming commonplace, even accepted, in our society. But what are the consequences of play deprivation for our children?

    What Happens When Kids Don’t Get Enough Time to Play

    The consequences of inadequate playtime are profound. Children who are deprived of quality playtime experience decreases in brain and muscle development, reduced social skills, and impaired problem-solving abilities and are more likely to become violent and antisocial. (42) Play-deprived children also experience a loss of sensory stimulation that causes withdrawal and decreased brain activity and are at an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and obesity.

    In other words, all work and no play makes kids makes kids depressed, unhealthy, and less intelligent.

    Could the answer to rising rates of childhood obesity, anxiety, depression, and falling scores in science and math be a “prescription” for more play? The answer appears to be a resounding “yes!” In fact, adding extra recess time to children’s school schedules has been found to improve academic skills, classroom behavior, and adjustment to school life, among the many other cognitive, emotional, and social processes mentioned above. (43)

    Play Deprivation Matters for Adults, Too

    Play deprivation also has serious consequences for adults. Psychiatrist Stuart Brown has noted that adults who have “forgotten how to play” have narrow, rigid thinking and a decreased ability to handle stress. (44) In his own clinical practice, Dr. Brown has found that playless adult lives are also associated with controlling behavior, over-ambition, envy, and in some cases, emotional breakdown. (45)

    How to Incorporate More Play into Your Life

    Play is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. While some individuals have a natural predisposition toward fun, anyone can learn how to become more playful, given some time, effort, and a few helpful tips. (46, 47) With the importance of play in mind, here are some tips for encouraging more play in your life.

    Choose Activities You Loved as a Child

    What was your favorite childhood game? Perhaps it was climbing trees or playing stickball in the yard with your neighborhood friends. Make a list, get creative, and see how you can incorporate these activities into your current adult life. Instead of climbing trees, you could give rock climbing a go, and an adult softball league could be a great way to get back to your stickball-playing roots.

    Pick Activities That Bring You Joy

    What activities spark a fire in you? Make a list and keep it in a place where you’ll see it every day. Try to engage in play activities at least several days of the week, if not every day!

    Keep in mind that play can be fun, but also absorbing, challenging, and demanding. To this end, activities like working on your car, undertaking a DIY project in your home, or planting a garden can be considered play, as long as you’re having fun along the way.

    Create Opportunities for Play

    If you look for chances to play, you’ll find that they are everywhere. Go on a walk in the woods, have a board game night, throw a stick for your dogs, or build a fort with your kids—the possibilities are endless.

    Embrace “Beginner’s Mind”

    In Zen practice, the term “beginner’s mind” refers to an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. This state of mind is an excellent one to cultivate for play. A beginner’s mind can help you let go of self-consciousness and concern about being awkward or unskilled, which is a legitimate fear for many adults who are unfamiliar with play.

    Make Play a Priority

    Schedule time for play just as you would schedule time for other activities in your life, such as going to your job and working out. Given the health benefits of play, it deserves some dedicated time in your life!

    Do you make time for play? What’s your go-to activity? Tell me in the comment section below.

    The post 10 Benefits of Play appeared first on Chris Kresser.

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