As we go into Labor Day weekend, I thought it might be nice to focus on a topic that isn’t about work. It isn’t a task or something you have to do. Instead, I going to focus on leisure.
Specifically, studies have shown that having hobbies can improve your well-being and even extend life expectancy, which helps lead to enjoyable golden years. So with that, here are a few hobbies that may have a powerful impact on your health according to Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”.
- Reading. Stress is a big source of health problems that shorten lives, and reading can provide a ready escape into a new world. According to a study out of the University of Sussex, reading can decrease your stress levels by 68%. Reading improves your stress after only a few minutes because your mind focuses on what you are reading. This distraction eases the tensions in muscles and the heart. This is a personal favorite hobby of mine and I would recommend it to anyone, even people who don’t think of themselves as “readers.”
- Gardening. A number of studies show that the physical activity of gardening — combined with being in a lush, green atmosphere — can enhance and extend life. People in their 60s with green thumbs decrease their risk of developing dementia by 36%, according to research from Australia. I couldn’t find the citation for this, but I’ve been told that heart rates will reduce once you are outside in a green area after only 10 minutes.
- Cooking. Restaurant and processed foods are no good for your health. They can contribute to life-shortening illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, people who make meals from scratch are much more apt to eat a healthier diet. The more often you cook at home each week, the higher you’ll tend to score on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Eating Index. University of Washington researchers say: “Home-cooked dinners were associated with greater dietary guideline compliance, without significant increase in food expenditures. By contrast, frequent eating out was associated with higher expenditures and lower compliance.”
- Listening to music. Research shows that regularly attending concerts can add years to your life. One study found just 20 minutes of listening can increase your sense of well-being by up to 21%. In particular, concert attendance increases:
- Feelings of self-worth by 25%
- Feelings of closeness to others by 25%; and
- Mental stimulation by 75%.
The study concluded that such positive feelings could increase your lifespan by up to nine years. According to Fagan, “Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and well-being — with regular attendance being the key.”
5. Volunteering. Helping others is another great hobby to extend your life, but only if your motives are pure. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that volunteering extends life, but with a strange caveat, according to the American Psychological Association:
“Volunteers lived longer than people who didn’t volunteer, if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.”
Researchers think that proper motivation is key to getting the most out of volunteering because it buffers volunteers from stressors, like impingement on the volunteer’s time and lack of pay, which are part of doing good works. I can say anecdotally that as people age and after they retire, sometimes they lack a focus and throw themselves into volunteering. It isn’t a healthy approach, they are basically recreating their work experiences and the stress that comes with it.
6. Walking. This hobby can have a profound impact on your health, and those who take brisk walks might live up to 20 years longer than couch potatoes, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Again, it’s brisk walking — at least three miles per hour or 100 steps a minute — is required to get the life-extending benefits.
7. Owning a pet. A lot of research has found that pet owners enjoy many health benefits from being around their furry friends. For example, a meta- analysis of studies published between 1950 and 2019 found that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause. The benefit is even more pronounced for seniors with existing heart problems. The study authors believe walking a dog — (see #6) — may play a big role in these improved health outcomes. Another study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that people who own cats have a reduced risk of death from heart attack or stroke.
Hopefully this weekend you’ll spend time on your hobby, or pick one of these as a new one! Happy Labor Day!
Reference: Money Talks News (Aug. 20, 2021) “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer”