Ten reasons to behave like a kid again

Jane Murphy / 16 September 2015

Revisiting childish activities can reap significant health benefits. It's time to release your inner six-year-old.



1. Climb a tree

Or if that seems a little too ambitious, try walking across a wide beam or crawling across the floor. The reason? Childish activities such as these can boost your 'working memory' – the kind you use to remember shopping lists or phone numbers – by 50 per cent, according to a study at the University of North Florida. 'The research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies,' says lead researcher Dr Ross Alloway. 'By taking a break to do activities that are unpredictable and require us to consciously adapt our movements, we can boost our working memory to perform better.'

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2. Go berry-picking

Blackberries are high in fibre and vitamin C, plus their antioxidant levels are among the highest of any fruit. Blueberries are also rich in antioxidants, plus they're a particularly good source of vitamin K – which prevents blood clots and encourages good bone health. One major 2012 study found that women who eat three or more portions of berries each day have a 32 per cent lower risk of heart attack. So grab an empty ice cream box and head out to the hedgerows.

Find out more about antioxidants

3. Head to the park

You don't have to play on the swings and slides – unless you particularly want to, of course – but spending just five minutes in a green space is enough to lift your mood, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology. But don't just sit on a bench: the trick is to keep moving. And if the park has a lake or pond, all the better: green areas with water seem to offer the most health benefits, say the researchers.

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4. Fly a kite

Still in the park? Excellent! Why not try a spot of kite-flying while you're there? As well as the obvious physical and mental health benefits from exercising in the open air, you'll be giving your eyes a workout. Focusing on distant objects makes a welcome change from staring at a screen for hours on end. It lessens the strain – and helps prevent age-related myopia – by relaxing the eye muscles. All together now: 'Let's go fly a kite'...

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5. Get your crayons out

Colouring books for adults have been a big hit in bookshops over recent months – with publishers keen to promote their stress-busting, mindfulness-awakening benefits. No major scientific studies have yet emerged to back up these claims – but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence from cheery colourists. Need convincing? A recent study from San Francisco State University found that adults who partake in creative activities in their free time deal better with stress and perform more effectively in the workplace.

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6. Fidget!

Remember when you couldn't sit still as a kid? It may not have been such a bad thing. People who spend more time standing up than sitting down can significantly reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to recent research from the University of Queensland. Those who spent an extra two hours a day on their feet had increased levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol and lower amounts of 'bad' LDL cholesterol.

Find out how to be more active without even noticing

7. Have a sing-song!

Singing with other people can boost your psychological wellbeing – even if you don't have the voice of an angel. That's according to research at Oxford Brookes University, which found that choir-members experienced greater benefits than people who'd joined a sports club. And that's not all: a previous study from the University of Gothenburg found that choral singing can help regulate your heartbeat.

Discover 10 more mood boosters

8. Play video games

OK, we know video games probably weren't around during your childhood. but it's never too late to start playing. Fast-paced games can increase our ability to quickly learn new motor skills, such as typing, say researchers at the University of Toronto

9. Or play a board game

Had enough of Call of Duty? Fair enough. It may be worth digging out the Monopoly instead. Keeping the brain active by playing board games can help reduce risk of dementia, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

10. Have a laugh with your friends

Mobile phones and social media have made it much easier to keep in touch with loved ones on a regular basis – but they're still no substitute for face-to-face contact. And sharing a giggle with your friends, just as you did when you were a child, can have huge mood-lifting, stress-busting and even memory-boosting benefits. One study at Loma Linda University in the US found that older adults who'd spent 20 minutes laughing with other people had significantly better memory recall and lower levels of stress hormones than those who'd been sitting alone. 

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So what are you waiting for? Go and call for your friends then head to the park to fly a kite. (But make sure you're back in time for tea!)


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