Five hobbies that can improve your health

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For most of us, our hobbies are an essential component of our personal lives, but did you know they can be good for our mental and physical health too?

a woman writing

Many pastimes — such as writing — have been shown to benefit health.

Hobbies provide a fulfilling, productive use of our free time, and our core identities are often bound up in the interests we choose to pursue when we are not working, sleeping, or spending time with loved ones.

Of course, most of us take up a hobby because we enjoy it. But, as you’re about to find out, there might be much more to your pastime than the fun factor.

We take a look at five hobbies that could give you a health boost for 2018.

Dancing: A fun form of exercise

Dancing has a whole range of health benefits and it is an easy and accessible way to exercise for most people. Think about it: you don’t need a lot of equipment to dance – just your feet, some tunes, and preferably a friend or two.

Dancing is gentle on the body – you can push yourself as hard as you want or settle into a comfortable groove that is just right for you. And anyone can dance!

a couple dancing

Dancing is a great form of exercise, and fun!

Even if you are shy of cutting loose on the dancefloor, pretty much everyone enjoys moving their body to music, even if it is just within the comfort of their own home; there is no right or wrong way to dance. Just do whatever feels good to you!

Dancing is a social activity, and we know that keeping active socially is important for general well-being Most importantly, dancing is fun. This is a pain-free, energizing workout. But how, specifically, does dancing keep us healthy?

Firstly, dancing is an excellent cardio workout, and we know that cardio workouts help to improve cardiovascular health, increase stamina, and strengthen bones and muscles.

2011 Cochrane Review that examined 94 studies involving 9,917 participants also found that dancing at least three times per week seemed to improve balance in the elderly.

This is important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that every year 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.

Rates of unintentional fall deaths among adults are also becoming more common. The CDC say that between 2005 and 2014, unintentional fall death rates rose from 43,000 per 100,000 people to 58,000 per 100,000 people.

So, if an activity as simple as dancing could help to avoid some of these unintentional falls, then why not boogie away?

Dancing is also good for brain health. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported an association between regular dancing excursions and a 76 percent reduction in dementia risk.

Gardening good for the brain

Gardening may not initially seem like exercise, but studies have reported that a wealth of unexpected health benefits are associated with keeping your garden in order.

Firstly, the simple actions of pulling weeds, planting, and reaching for tools all contribute to a subtle form of aerobic exercise, which we know helps work muscles and boosts strength, stamina, and flexibility.

a woman gardening

Gardening has been linked to a lower risk of dementia.

Also, being outdoors is just good for you. A 2014 study published in PLOS One found that gardening and regular cycling reduce the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency in elderly people.

And there is an association between decreased dementia risk and gardening, with one study reporting a 36 percent lower risk of dementia among people who gardened daily.

Both gardening and DIY were also linked with a reduction in the risk of heart attack and stroke of up to 30 percent in a 2013 study, conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Writing: A wonder for wound healing

Surely sitting at a desk with a laptop or pen and paper cannot be good for your health? Prepare to be shocked.

Writing has been linked to a number of mental and physical health benefits, including improvements in memory, stress levels, and sleep, among other things.

Several studies, for instance, have found that writing about their experiences helps cancer patients to come to terms with their illnesses, helping the patients to withstand stress and potentially contribute to improved physical outcomes.

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