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Hobbies help to boost health

There is a new buzz word on the street: ‘social prescribing’.  This is the term that GP’s are using that covers the referral of patients to a broad range of local clubs and activities to help address their health issues.

Latest research suggests that having a hobby can significantly benefit our physical and mental health.  Hobbies can make us feel more relaxed, give us pleasure, enable us to socialise with like-minded people or simply allow us to take a break from the pressures of daily life.  Whichever hobby or hobbies we choose to pursue, taking time to do something we enjoy on a regular basis not only gives our mental wellbeing a boost it can have a positive impact on our physical health too.

GP’s are becoming more aware of the enormous benefit having a hobby can make to their patients and so are advising us to take up something on a regular basis that we would enjoy.

Emma Cronin, from the Health at Hand team explains more.

How hobbies can benefit our health

Hobbies can help reduce social isolation and loneliness in all age groups which in turn reduces the risk of depression and can improve physical health.

Emma Cronin tells us “health professionals have long understood that exercise can help to protect us against a wide range of serious health conditions, so anything that can get us moving our bodies more will have long term benefits.  If we add in hobbies such as dancing where we have to remember steps, or competition such as a local bowling match, or the outdoors such as hiking or gardening then these will lead to a greater sense of wellbeing and improved brain function to boot!”

But hobbies don’t necessarily have to involve physical exercise.  A recent study has found that activities that stimulate our minds such as playing cards, reading, crafts, using a computer, solving puzzles, writing, photography, learning a new language or skill, anything in fact that is varied and interests us can help slow or delay age-related memory loss.

Further benefits of trying a new hobby:

  • If you’re bored and need a challenge then try something entirely new, it may help to stretch your mind and body
  • If you feel stressed then doing something relaxing can help you to find a balance in your life, or alternatively you may want a more energetic hobby which serves as an outlet for any pent-up stress
  • Learning something new may give you a sense of achievement that will boost your self-confidence
  • Making new friends can be a huge social benefit to trying a new hobby.

Which hobby is right for me?

Emma suggests doing something you enjoy.  “You don’t need to be good at it; you just need to enjoy it.  Your pottery doesn’t have to look like something you would buy in a shop and your artwork doesn’t have to be gallery standard – it’s the mental and physical stimulation and fun that it gives you that counts.”

Consider what you want to get out of a new hobby:

  • If you would like to meet new people then try classes where you work with a group
  • If you’re happier being alone then try something like drawing, model-making, or tracing your family history
  • If you’re competitive then how about a team sport, or enter a race?
  • Try something you may have enjoyed at school but not pursued, such as art, woodwork or languages
  • Or perhaps choose something that you wouldn’t have dreamed would be your thing, you may surprise yourself!
  • Try using a different side to your brain – if you use your brain in a creative way most of the time then consider a more technical hobby or if you are very logical or procedural person then consider hobbies such as painting or music.

The University of the Third Age

If you have stopped working full time or raising a family then joining your local U3A may be a good starting point to find activities in your area.

U3A are UK-wide and are a voluntary network which offers a wide range of activities to stimulate body and mind ranging from archaeology to yoga! Find out more here.

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