The Benefits of Adult Play

A man dives for a rope on the challenge course. The words Adult Play are written over the image.

“Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice,” says psychiatrist Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play.

It’s well documented that fun and exercise – play – are beneficial for children. “Physical activity and sports are generally promoted for their positive effect on children’s physical [and mental] health,” writes Dr. Amika Singh. Now, researchers are finding that many of these same benefits can be applied to adults.

“At work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication,” says Lynn Barnett, a professor of recreation, sports and tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Adult Play Reduces Stress

Adult play can be an “important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being,” writes Washington Post reporter Jennifer Wallace in her article “Why it’s good for grown-ups to go play.”

A certain amount of daily stress, especially in the workplace, is unavoidable. However, too much stress can start to have an increasingly negative impact on your well-being. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America’s (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, 72 percent of people with daily stress admit that it interferes with their lives at least moderately. In the workplace, specifically, employees say stress and anxiety most often impact:

  • workplace performance (56 percent)
  • relationship with coworkers and peers (51 percent)
  • quality of work (50 percent)
  • relationships with superiors (43 percent)

83 percent of men and 72 percent for women admit that workplace stress carries over into their personal lives as well.

“Highly playful adults feel the same stressors as anyone else, but they appear to experience and react to them differently, allowing stressors to roll off more easily than those who are less playful,” says Barnett. According to researchers Tracy Hecht and Kathleen Boies, “sports, recreation, and fitness programs lead to less somatic complaints and higher life satisfaction,” as well as “lower absenteeism and higher job satisfaction.”

Taking Adult Play to New Heights

In 2010, researcher Jenny Phan tested the benefits of organized adult play on the challenge course (high ropes course), analyzing the benefits of such activities on 120 subjects. The results revealed that just one afternoon on the challenge course “impacted the participants at an emotional and social level,” and most participants saw a noticeable increase in their “emotional and social skills.” Of the 120 participants, 79 stated that the activities had some type of an impact on their ability to overcome fear, 76 noted a positive impact on self-esteem, 104 trust, 97 confidence, 83 empathy, 75 ease of stress, and 94 noted a positive outlook on life after their afternoon on the challenge course.

“It is clear that challenge course experiences are beneficial tools for participants” and can impact “a variety of educational and psychological constructs,” write researchers Gillis and Speelman.

Adult Play Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

When it comes to having fun, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone is different and everyone enjoys different activities. It’s all about finding what works best for you. If you enjoy hiking, go for a hike. If you like kayaking, go kayaking. And if you prefer sports, find a league near you.

“What all play has in common,” says psychiatrist Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, California, “is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.”

The average American adult employed full time works 47 hours per week, according to a Gallup poll, and four in 10 workers put in over 50 hours each week. Don’t we all deserve a little break?

“Play has the power to deeply enrich your adult life, if you pay attention to it,” says Brown.

Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures features the ultimate challenge course with three levels taking you up to 40 ft. in the air! We also offer several guided tours and outdoor activities, such as biking, backpacking, kayaking, and geocaching, just to name a few.

Find Your Next Adventure!

“Time spent in outdoor recreation leads to a range of benefits, from reduced obesity rates to strengthened family ties,” according to Robert Manning, professor of recreation management at the University of Vermont. And, quite frankly, it’s more enjoyable.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at to learn more.

Works Cited

  1. Wallace, Jennifer. “Why it’s good for grown-ups to go play.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 20 May 2017. Web. 26 May 2017.
  2. “Maybe that workout can wait till the weekend?” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  3. “Turns out Americans work really hard…but some want to work harder.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  4. “Weekend exercise alone ‘has significant health benefits’” BBC News. BBC, 10 Jan. 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  5. CBS/AP. “Do “weekend warriors” reap the full benefits of exercise?” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 09 Jan. 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  6. Sample, Ian. “Weekend workouts can benefit health as much as regular exercise, say researchers.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 Jan. 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  7. Pashley, Tina. “Physical, Social, Emotional & Intellectual Benefits of Outdoor Recreation.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 26 May 2015. Web. 12 May 2017.
  8. “Highlights: Workplace Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
  9. Phan, Jenny. “The Impact of Therapeutic Recreation through Ropes Courses and Teambuilding Activities.” Diss. 2011. Abstract. Print.
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