happiness · health · play · youtube

Prancercising, Inspired by Play

Everyone’s been having fun learning about Prancercise, created by Joanna Rohrback. Sure it’s a little silly, but that’s sort of the point. Joanna even says that the workout is inspired by horses prancing, and should be motivated by fun:

Prancercise® is defined as: A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation. It’s about Self-Expression. It’s about Non-violence. It’s about Conservation.

Exercise doesn’t need to be grueling and difficult, it can be fun. People stick with exercise programs longer if it’s fun, and exercise has been shown to be more effective when it’s fun.

So while blogs like the Huffington Post are poking fun at Prancercising, in a way it’s a great reminder to have fun with your exercise routine.

architecture · behavior · community · creativity · environment · happiness · health · play · Social

Adults for playgrounds? Yes, please!

Grown-ups often need a little more persuasion to play than kids. (Photo credit: phalinn)

Earlier this week I brought up the importance of spaces for play in the city, and then yesterday mentioned a scientific study that used traceurs or people who practice parkour, a sport that basically makes any space into a play space. Unfortunately park playgrounds are often verboten to grown-ups without a kid companion. But often grown-ups like the play equipment, or similar play equipment, as much as kids do. Now, the cities of New York and Detroit are determining where and whether to put in playgrounds specifically for adults:

New York City is installing adult playgrounds for fitness-hungry grown-ups, touting the benefits of a grade-school workout. …the Big Apple parks are geared more toward workouts than whiling away the summer hours. There aren’t any slides or swings yet at these outdoor gyms.

The City of New York built its first adult playground in the Bronx’s Macomb Dam Park. The New York Times reports as many as 24 playplaces for grown-up kids could be installed by 2014.

In Europe, where playtime seems to be more a more capricious venture, adult playgrounds tempt grown-ups to get off the couch with detailed outdoor mazes, rock climbing walls, elephant slides and swimming canals.

Philip Lauri is the founder of Detroit Lives!, the media company with the mission of bringing creativity to the streets of Detroit (through an apparel line, murals and the “After The Factory” documentary). Detroit Lives! has recently started experimenting with making places in the city that inspire that same joie de vivre and fun — like the Georgia Street Community Collective’s remote-control racetrack for kids living in the nonprofit’s target neighborhood. He thinks adult playgrounds could be smart additions to neighborhoods who have already installed thriving community gardens.

“In those areas, we install an adult playground as an addendum to that successful effort, and use the kind of neighborhood engagement that the garden created to successfully initiate the adult playground,” Lauri wrote. “Then, both sites grow with participation and we get healthier people and neighborhoods. That’s a simplified progression, but still tangible enough to act upon quite quickly.”

Most people taking the Huffington Post poll are all for adult playgrounds.

In some ways I find it sad that we need to create playgrounds specifically for grown-ups. Don’t we teach our kids to share and cooperate? But, in many ways it makes sense: for one thing, adults are bigger and therefore need different sized equipment. They also tend to play rougher, more competitively, and less cooperatively than children (according to numerous studies I’ll find and source later), so keeping the two play groups separated is probably a safer idea. Finally, grown-ups also need to be given explicit permission to goof off, at least much more so than kids, so giving them a space devoted entirely to play will help them get creative and playful in their movement.

What kind of equipment would you want on an adult playground? Rope swings? Fireman’s pole? Leave your thoughts in the comments below?

anthropology · architecture · community · creativity · culture · design · environment · happiness · Social

How legalizing street art made Rio de Janeiro a prettier, happier place

A recent article in the Huffington Post explored Rio de Janeiro’s acceptance of street art and how it has enriched the various neighborhoods:

Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand[s] of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti.” – Design Week

In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed law 706/07 making street art and graffiti legal if done with the consent of building owners. As progressive of a policy as this may sound, the legislation is actually a reflection of the evolving landscape in Brazilian street art, an emerging and divergent movement in the global street art landscape.

Rio de Janeiro has been particularly progressive in its policy towards street art, with its 1999 “Não pixe, grafite” (Don’t Tag, Graffiti) project that brought together 35 graffiti artists to showcase diversity in local styles. But more unique is the evolution of a permission hierarchy, blurring the line between formal and informal. The new street art law merely reinforced these unique patterns of street art and legitimized an already flourishing form of artistic expression.

Retaining walls on the steep terrain provide canvases for artists.

In Rio de Janeiro, street art is ubiquitous. It exists in all corners of the city, from the favelasto upper class neighborhoods, from residential to institutional. It is bold in scale and aesthetics and is anything but graffiti. The urban fabric of Rio de Janeiro also figures prominently in the evolving street art scene. The high walls, whether for security or to contain the topography, provide ample surfaces for painting. But rather than location dictating art, the relationship between owner and artist has a direct impact on where street art occurs.

Owners of buildings, both residential and commercial, sometimes invite artists for commissions, which is done to protect from tagging, as an aesthetic choice or as an economic choice — painting a façade with art may be cheaper than another mode of beautification. In another case, street artists ask permission from the owner.

Tudo de cor para você, Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro (photo source: favelapainting.com)

Thanks to the city’s openness to various forms of artwork, and specifically “street” art, Rio de Janeiro is now known for its colorfulness and art. In informal studies the art has also been found to make citizens more invested in their communities and overall happier.

Hooray for public art.

behavior · children · community · creativity · health · play

6 Ways To Get Kids Outside And Moving This Summer, suggested by Kaboom

KaBOOM! CEO Darell Hammond
Kaboom CEO Darrel Hammond (told ya' it wasn't the SNL guy!) Image via Wikipedia

It doesn’t really feel like summer here in the Pacific Northwest yet, but we’re already scheduling picnics and camping trips and weddings and all kinds of outdoor activities in hopes of the weather getting nice. But there are more ideas for getting outside than (hopefully not) tedious nuptials or a forced march uphill. Darrel Hammond, CEO of Kaboom (not the SNL guy), has some ideas specifically for families:

Summer should be a time for roaming, discovering and running outside — but unfortunately, for all too many kids, more free time means more screen time and more structured activities.

It’s up to you to ensure that your kids get a healthy daily dose of unstructured outdoor play. Here are six ways to get your children moving, nurture their creativity and provide them with all the rich learning opportunities that outdoor play presents. In the process, you’ll meet new neighbors and contribute to a nationwide movement to save play.

Suggestion #4: Close a street for play. I’ve actually seen several neighborhoods around town grab a permit for the afternoon to close down their street and have a block party. Some cities are probably easier to work with than others, but the idea of a block play party sounds fabulous!

We all need a little push to get out the door (especially when it’s too hot, too cold, too windy, not windy enough, etc.), so having a planned event or project like this can be very useful.

more suggestions by Darell Hammond: 6 Ways To Get Kids Outside And Moving This Summer.

Kaboom! is a play-focused non-profit that is working to ensure that every child has a great place to play within walking distance of their school or home. They certified a playground here on Mercer Island, WA, and are working to install or certify others all over the U.S. Another idea to get your kids out and active: help build a playground!