The Positive Relationships of Playfulness With Indicators of Health, Activity, and Physical Fitness

Adult playfulness is a personality trait that enables people to frame or reframe everyday situations in such a way that they experience them as entertaining, intellectually stimulating, or personally interesting. Earlier research supports the notion that playfulness is associated with the pursuit of an active way of life. While playful children are typically described as being active, only limited knowledge exists on whether playfulness in adults is also associated with physical activity. Additionally, existing literature has not considered different facets of playfulness, but only global playfulness. Therefore, we employed a multifaceted model that allows distinguishing among Other-directed, Lighthearted, Intellectual, and Whimsical playfulness. For narrowing this gap in the literature, we conducted two studies addressing the associations of playfulness with health, activity, and fitness. The main aim of Study 1 was a comparison of self-ratings (N = 529) and ratings from knowledgeable others (N = 141). We tested the association of self- and peer-reported playfulness with self- and peer-reported physical activity, fitness, and health behaviors. There was a good convergence of playfulness among self- and peer-ratings (between r = 0.46 and 0.55, all p < 0.001). Data show that both self- and peer-ratings are differentially associated with physical activity, fitness, and health behaviors. For example, self-rated playfulness shared 3% of the variance with self-rated physical fitness and 14% with the pursuit of an active way of life. Study 2 provides data on the association between self-rated playfulness and objective measures of physical fitness (i.e., hand and forearm strength, lower body muscular strength and endurance, cardio-respiratory fitness, back and leg flexibility, and hand and finger dexterity) using a sample of N = 67 adults. Self-rated playfulness was associated with lower baseline and activity (climbing stairs) heart rate and faster recovery heart rate (correlation coefficients were between −0.19 and −0.24 for global playfulness). Overall, Study 2 supported the findings of Study 1 by showing positive associations of playfulness with objective indicators of physical fitness (primarily cardio-respiratory fitness). The findings represent a starting point for future studies on the relationships between playfulness, and health, activity, and physical fitness.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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