The instinct to play resides in all of us but is often subdued to suit pressing deadlines replacing fun with ‘under the gun’ stress.
Doing what comes naturally appears to have multi-faceted benefits from releasing the pressure of worry and work to building on relationships, connecting with inspiration and feeling a genuine sense of happiness.
Play comes in many forms, sport, dance, any and all pastimes that are enjoyable and restorative. In the animal kingdom the otter is well known for its playful nature. A carefree critter that delights in water sports, often whiling away many an hour belly up floating dreamily down stream. For inspiration from our friend the otter see the beautiful photo essay ‘The Cute Otter’ on Scienceray. It depicts a rather appealing rascal, boundless in energy and enthusiasm busy at play.

Let loose and live longer is a logic corroborated by studies who support the notion that play is good for you. For instance, a New Zealand study showed that workers were 82% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits were better. Whilst, Australian researchers suggested that frequent breaks for sedentary workers results in better weight control and improved triglyceride and blood glucose numbers. The New York Times also covered a study that showed increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it.
Evidence that the benefits of play are more than physical was expressed in an article published in the Penisula last month. Experts supported the value sport plays in developing life skills and promoting tolerance, understanding and gender equality.
At a recent forum on ‘Sport as an Incentive’, Wilfried Lemke, United Nations Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace, demonstrated his support for sport by saying, “Through sport, we can educate children on leadership, foster role models, promote peace and give children hope for the future.”
Sport incentive initiative Right to Play evolved out of an awareness and fundraising organization called Olympic Aid, which was conceived in 1992 by the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee (LOOC) in preparation for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The focus of Olympic Aid during these Games was to show support for people in war-torn countries and areas of distress.
Late 2000, Olympic Aid now Right To Play made the transition from “fundraising vehicle” to implementing Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). In March 2001, the first sport and play programs began in refugee communities in Angola and Côte d’Ivoire. Building on the founding legacy of the Lillehammer Olympics, this transition allowed Right To Play to include both Olympic athletes and other elite sports figures as Athlete Ambassadors; increase relationships to non-Olympic sports; partner with a wider variety of private sector funders; and deepen involvement at the grassroots level.
Today, Right To Play has a permanent presence in the field of Sport for Development. In addition to its sport and play programs, Right To Play is established as a pioneer in international advocacy on behalf of every child’s right to play, and it is actively involved in research and policy development in this area. Our vision is to engage leaders on all sides of sport, business and media to ensure every child’s right to play.
The virtue of play has benefit to all not just otters or children but adults and especially workaholics as well. Take a time out every once and while to do what comes naturally, support sport and the Right to Play by becoming more involved in your own community. Fundraise, donate, volunteer and stay informed at:

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.