This week was a little bittersweet because June 15th was my late father’s birthday, and this weekend is Father’s Day.

My Dad was a fantastic role model for his entire family.

He enjoyed playing and participating in activities like golf, skiing, tennis, sailing, squash, hiking and fishing.

I think he liked sports mostly because they engaged him in physical movement and relationship building. My Dad had a large circle of friends, and nothing gave him more joy than the pursuit of play.

The one thing he didn’t do was “practice” for these sports in the offseason.

Had he been using functional movement patterns to help keep him healthy and agile for these sports, I don’t think he would have tossed in the towel so early.

I noticed that in his late-70s, my Dad slowly gave up playing his favourite sports, and I think it came down to ego and lack of self-confidence.

If he couldn’t compete as he used to, why bother? Once he started losing the muscle strength and agility he once had naturally at a younger age, he couldn’t play like he used to.

So he stopped.

And because he stopped and also had not cultivated a habit of keeping his muscles strong, he got weaker.

Functional movement is critical to everyday life. Strong muscles mean strong bones. Our bodies don’t move in a single direction – we move side to side, backward, forward, up and down, and diagonally.

In my book, I dedicate a whole chapter to FUNctional movement because its a vital part of the play equation, including heart-pumping cardio, mobility and recovery to increase the range of motion in your joints while reducing pain and tightness in your muscles.

The World Health Organization says, “In older adults with poor mobility, there is consistent evidence that regular physical activity is safe and reduces the risk of falls by nearly 30%. For the prevention of falls, most evidence supports a physical activity pattern of balance training and moderate-intensity muscle-strengthening activities three times per week.”

Once my Dad got weaker, his world got so much smaller.

His death at 83 resulted from the slow and steady decline of a once healthy and active man.

It reminds me of that famous quote by George Bernard Shaw that says: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

Learn from my Dad: practice playing!