Why Hobbies are Good for Your Health

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access

As spring approaches, make plans to get involved in a new hobby or spend more time on an old hobby that you may have neglected over the past few months. Hobbies provide numerous health benefits, both physical and mental, that we often take for granted. They play an important role in a person’s overall health and well-being, often by increasing our creativity, self-esteem, and sense of accomplishment.

Here are just a few good reasons why hobbies can boost your health

  • Relieve stress. Hobbies can be an effective way to reduce stress and forget your worries. Time spent on a hobby, whether walking, running, photography, painting, or knitting, provides a distraction and escape from the regular stressors of daily life. This can lead to a sense of well-being and gratification. With less stress, you can also help your heart by lowering blood pressure.

  • Combat depression. Hobbies can help in the fight against depression. Research has shown that participating in activities that you enjoy, or have a flair for, can improve mental health. Hobbies keep you busy and happy. They help to reduce fatigue, loneliness and dull mood that are the root causes of depression. For example, activities like drawing, sculpting, and arts and crafts can help promote creativity of the mind. Also, if you try your hand at cooking or baking, you will be making others satisfied, which can be extremely gratifying.

  • Stave off memory loss. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine added to growing evidence that mentally stimulating hobbies like reading, playing board games, and doing crossword puzzles may prevent or minimize memory loss in the aging population. Seniors who reported doing these activities about four days a week were two-thirds less likely to get dementia compared with those who did them once a week or less. That’s why it’s important to keep your mind sharp and learn something new with mind-building hobbies.
  • Search YouTube for healthy how-to or informational videos. YouTube brings a visual component to learning about a topic and has thousands of clips from health experts. For example, if you plan to get in shape to run a 5K or even a longer distance, you can find videos that show proper training techniques. Also, many health organizations have their own YouTube channels such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official YouTube channel, CDC Streaming Health, which contains CDC-produced videos on a variety of health topics.

  • Manage arthritis. People with arthritis shouldn’t feel like they need to give up their favorite hobbies. In fact, research shows that hobbies may actually help arthritic hands. A study by researchers at the University of Kansas involved four people with osteoarthritis who played the piano in 20-minute sessions, four times a week, over a four-week period. The results showed improvement in finger pinch and range of motion, as well as improvement in finger velocity, strengths, and dexterity. For arthritis sufferers, some modifications or the use of adaptive devices may be required to do a hobby. For example, if you like to garden, choose tools with larger handles that don’t require a firm, strong hold, or longer handles that use muscle groups in the arm, not just the hand.

  • Provide social support. Many hobbies involve group activities: community gardening, golf outings, knitting circles, and book clubs are good examples. Hobbies that connect you with others can provide social support. These types of hobbies also allow for the exchange of new ideas and skills, while offering a sense of camaraderie. According to a study by Brigham Young University Research, social interaction is not only important to a person’s mental and physical health, but can positively impact longevity.

When choosing a hobby, make sure it has appeal and complements your physical abilities. Also, some of the most rewarding activities are those that involve building or making things for needy causes, such as knitting blankets to be donated to a children’s hospital. And by all means, try a couple different hobbies to find those you like the best.

Spring into action and find a hobby that you are passionate about – it will keep you healthier!