Stephen Jepson may be one of the most creative and active people you will ever meet, especially at his age. From the time he rises until the time he retires, he is constantly moving and actively pursuing something fun and physically active all day long. He believes that keeping his mind and body active is the key to living a long and healthy life. This is one senior citizen whose brain is always running at top speed and with one thing in mind….”we are born to move!”
Scientific studies show that constant, consistent physical movement throughout our daily lives is the single most important thing to do to be physically healthier and smarter, regardless of age. Every cell in the body is affected by movement. The brain improves as we use our muscles, which, in turn, grow with use. Movement training can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, the paralysis of MS and Parkinson’s, and delay the effects of aging since neural pathways open and increase as we learn new activities.
Stephen Jepson believes that by challenging your body to do activities that require both physical activity as well as thought, you are increasing the number of neural connections in the brain. He also believes that using your non-dominant hand and foot will help to create new connections that lead to improved memory.
Jepson developed “Never Leave the Playground” which is a program of activities (videos) that stimulates the growth of the brain and body by specific training of the hands and feet. The method has two goals: to promote good health and to have fun.
Developing Small Muscle Groups Is Key
People believe exercise is strenuous, but his method is neither arduous nor boring. Instead, he focuses on play and games, many similar to those children play on the playground. He begins with simple movements which progress to more complex challenges for the brain and body. For example, he trains both left and right hands and feet to manipulate large and small objects with increasing precision. This promotes balance and dexterity which prevents falls and increases eye-hand coordination. The activities in “Never Leave the Playground” develop the large and small muscle groups and foster stability and physical coordination.
The limitation of current approaches to combat deteriorating health may, in part, contribute to the problem. For example, school-based and community-based programs might not be particularly efficacious. Physical education curriculums in schools designed to create exercise environments that only mesh with sport or competition have isolated several groups of children who are uncomfortable, uncoordinated or lack the athletic ability to enjoy these events. For many of these children, this reality becomes a conditioned reinforcer instilling a behavior which dissuades many of them from pursuing physical activity programs in their teens and then in adulthood.
Moreover, a plethora of school-based programs still emphasize non-locomotor and manipulative skills for physical education which are very poor indicators in maintaining human health. Motor skills such as speed, strength, power and balance which are integrated within our daily lives have consistently shown to improve long-term health, yet an extremely large percentage of curriculums fail to properly address or incorporate these skills. Students are just not getting the education and tools they need to sustain healthy, active lifestyles well into their teens.
Constant Movement Essential
Instead of sitting all day, then exercising feverishly for an hour or so, Jepson encourages constant movement and play throughout the day coupled with periods of more intense movement like walking and running. Standing and balancing on one foot at a time while typing at your desk, pacing while on the phone, or sitting while playing with toys for the hands or feet – all are essential to age proof the mind and body.
We are born to move. For millions of years, our ancestors were hunter/gatherers. During those prehistoric times, they were constantly moving to survive: gathering food, hauling water, hunting game, etc., and they walked or ran an average of 8 to 10 miles every day. There was a direct relationship between movement and survival and good health. Imagine if ancient man was afforded the luxuries of modern medicine. Who knows how long they would have lived?
We no longer have to move to survive. We can go to our refrigerator to get food. Most of our lives are sedentary. We sit to drive, work, watch TV and movies, and play with our gadgets. By not moving, we become mentally and physically sluggish. Our creativity diminishes, and our bodies begin to die a little at a time through lack of use. Modern medicine works overtime to keep us healthy and negate the effects of inertia on the body and mind.
Puppies and kittens and children run around wildly chasing each other, tumbling, rolling, developing quick and agile movements. Children play jacks, hopscotch, jump rope, swing, slide, play running games and ballgames on their playgrounds, continually refining the speed and accuracy of hand and foot movements, stamina, and breathing – very important at any age in continuing the plasticity, growth and health of our brains as well.
Never Leave the Playground teaches the method of lifetime fitness through toys and play and games that can be played alone or with others of any age throughout our lives. By simply returning to the playground every day, your memory will improve, you will become more creative, and you will look forward to each new day with the excitement and vigor not experienced since you left the playground of your youth. It’s time to go back to the playground and never leave it again.