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Play: It's the Healthy Way!

By Daniel Foster12 Apr 2024

All the experts that I like recommend play.

That may not sound like a scientific recommendation, but if you keep reading anyway, your life will improve, because I’m going to give you an excuse to do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Play has long been associated with increased lifespans and greater quality of life. In children, amount of play correlates directly with lower cortisol levels,1 and adults need to play for the same reason. Sure, for kids, play teaches social skills, develops cognition, etc, but if you think about it, play fundamentally alters our perspective on life. Play is about one type of game or another. The more we play—and graft those games into our adult lives—the more we come to subconsciously regard life as a game. Games are fun!

So not only do we begin to think of life’s challenges as tests that we can overcome in a fun way, we naturally begin to apply creative solutions to problems which we would otherwise slave our way through with work, work, and more work.

Stuart Brown is a psychiatrist who has studied play in children, adults, and animals for 60 years. (He’s 89 and still playing, by the way.) He had this to say in a recent interview with CNN:

Despite everything going on around us, play allows us to explore what’s possible. Innovation, creative problem solving — these are both related to the fulfillment of our playful nature. One of the reasons I think play is still a big part of human nature is that it helps us deal with a changing world. If you are rigid and fixed, you are not going to have room to try to check possibilities that might not otherwise exist for you.2

As I said, all the experts that I like recommend play.

This doesn’t necessarily mean making mudpies with your kids. (Though it certainly can!) A couple of researchers we know recently played with our equipment, and got it published in the ASAIO Journal.3 Normally, Drs Gretel Monreal and Steven Koenig use our flow measurement equipment to aid in the development and testing of artificial hearts and associated devices. They’ve helped many of these devices into production. That’s pretty serious stuff. They’re directly saving lives. So what did they do with their play break?

This April Fools Day, they published an article in which they tested the flow capacity of several different “artificial hearts” that they pulled from various Halloween toys and decorations. The flow rates were, um… less than optimal, but proffered such gems as this surgeon’s comment:

My next patient gets ‘The Frankenstein!’” A notable innovation disappointingly not utilized by any TAHs or MCS devices to date is that, once this TAH starts beating, a recorded voice unexpectedly screams, “It’s alive!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa!!”... This important feature could help minimize alarm fatigue in the intensive care unit.

But other than fatigued alarms, what’s the value of this? We’re adults, and we insist that everything have practical value.

Writing such an absurd topic in proper scientific style created a hilarious read, and smiles and laughter are good for your health in practically every way. To one degree or another, they probably bolstered the health of everyone who read the article.

The Cleveland Clinic recently published an article4 that referred to laughter’s ability to increase “good” cholesterol, and reduce stress hormones and arterial inflammation, all of which can contribute to heart attacks. So maybe Gretel and Steven’s April Fools Joke just saved a life. You never know what might help.

For example, thanks to my long nature hikes and love of irregular-motion-based fitness, I have recently developed a variable-surface, traction-limited, geologically-based calisthenics routine.

Yes, I go out in the woods and play on the rocks.

We can’t write an equation to prove it, but that’s the thing about the value of play: you can’t force it. You just let it happen.

“Force” sounds so rigid anyway. But I guess I can paraphrase George Lucas…

“Maybe the play be with you!”

Thanks for reading, 

                     Transonic Systems, Inc

                                     The Measure of Better Results



  1. http://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/early-childhood/early-childhood-health-and-development/power-of-play/#:~:text=Play%20enables%20social%20skills%20such%20as%20listening%20to,play%20are%20associated%20with%20low%20levels%20of%20cortisol.
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2022/08/19/health/play-fun-adult-mental-health-wellness/index.html
  3. Monreal Gretel, et al. “Anatomical and hemodynamic characterization of totally artificial hearts.” ASAIO Journal, March 28, 2024. http://journals.lww.com/asaiojournal. Accessed 04/03/2024. DOI: 10.1097/MAT.0000000000002209
  4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-laughing-good-for-you