For as long as I can remember, I have loved movement. As a young child I would run around from dawn until dusk, playing chasing games or throwing a ball around. Growing up in the country, there was no shortage of bush and wildlife and I would often go out bush with my cousins and play all day. We would climb trees, hunt for barny (goanna) and eat boab nuts, often not coming home until the sun was setting. I had this internal drive to just keep moving and never wanting to stop.
This form of unstructured play is where I began to build my fitness, health, and a love for sports without even knowing it. From then on, I played every sport I could including softball, footy, athletics and eventually basketball, which I’ve continued to play for the best part of thirty years.
When I reflect on this desire to keep moving, part of it aligns with my cultural heritage as a Nykina man. Traditional Aboriginal people were very fit due to the amount of physical activity they undertook such as hunting and moving with the seasons. Their diet was made up of fresh lean meats, bush fruit and vegetable and all of this contributed to their survival.
The other part of it aligns to the benefits I gain from playing sport and not just the physical ones, but the benefits to my mental health. Staying active is proven to improve mood, reduce stress and the risk of anxiety and depression and simply provide a healthy outlet to express yourself.
Over the years, I’ve realised that the enjoyment I get from playing basketball not only satisfies my love of the game but reduces my stress and in simple terms makes me feel happier. What I’ve noticed most is that it resets my thoughts to be more positive and balances my mood, particularly if I’ve had a difficult day coping with all of life’s stresses. Not only that, as a team sport it provides an opportunity for social interaction with friends. This allows us to bounce ideas off each other and simply spend time joking and chatting, which is often all that’s needed to pick you up when you’re feeling down. This is something I’m grateful for and cherish more than ever.
Having worked in Aboriginal health for some time, I’ve also observed these benefits in others. Utilising sport as a tool to engage with young people can be the impetus to building confidence, self-esteem and cultural pride and these are so important for personal growth, development and feeling healthy.
So, whether you’re into team sports, single person pursuits such as cycling or weightlifting, or you simply like to walk, don’t underestimate the positive benefits this is having on your mental health and overall wellbeing. Let’s keep moving!
Find out more about our focus in Aboriginal Health.
Mark Griffin recently joined WA Primary Health Alliance as our Senior Advisor Aboriginal Health. A Nygkina man from the Kimberley region of Western Australia with cultural and family links through the Pilbara and Perth region, he has an extensive background in Aboriginal health and wellbeing, with over 10 years’ experience in the community and health sector.
Mark is providing subject matter expertise in the area of Aboriginal health, is leading the development and implementation of our Aboriginal health strategy and is integral to the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan. He will act as an ex officio member on WA Primary Health Alliance’s Strategic Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group.