“A man needs a hobby,” the saying goes. So does a woman. In an era when upgrading your Romulan Warbird in Star Trek Timelines or becoming current with House of Cards counts as a serious weekend's achievement, we invite you to set your weekend sights on some old school pastimes that have some real physical and mental benefits.
Garden: You've always thought that pruning bushes and pulling up weeds was therapeutic, and you were right: A study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. And our National Institute of Health recommends 30 to 45 minutes of gardening three to five times a week as part of a good strategy to combat obesity. Studies have also indicated that gardening can lower your risk of developing dementia. In two different studies, people in their 60s and 70s who regularly gardened had a 36 percent and 47 percent lower risk of developing dementia than non-gardeners did.
Color: Craft-based projects such as coloring, drawing, or painting can have meaningful mental health benefits, and adult-coloring books have become best-sellers for this reason. Studies have shown that art therapy can help you relax and ease anxiety. One study published in the Western Journal of Medicine concluded that art therapy might help treat depression in troubled adolescents, who can use it as a way to express their feelings. Another study found that creative projects like art therapy, music, and expressive writing could have healing benefits. So instead of leveling up your spaceship on your mobile device, paint a few on your kitchen table.
Volunteer: In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers discovered that people who displayed acts of generosity were insulated against stress. In fact, the sword cut both ways: those who didn’t give back as frequently during the study had a 30 percent higher risk of dying after a stressful life event. Volunteering may also be a great source of exercise for older adults who might not normally get a lot of exercise.
Play with your pet: We have always suspected that walking our dogs is a good form of exercise, and it is. According to a 2011 US National Institutes of Health-funded study, people who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who did not. The Center for Disease Control has taken the man-dog bond one step further, and released research that shows that caring for a pet has been shown to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and reduce feelings of loneliness.