Hobbies for Health by Stacy Geant Hughes

Updated: Jan 14, 2019



Looking to get healthier and feel great as spring springs and summer simmers? Put away the devices and pull out the knitting needles, books and board games and you could be improving your health just as much as you would hitting the gym for an hour!

A 2015 study from Society for Behavioral Health shows engaging in enjoyable leisure time activities leads to “greater positive mood, well-being, or life satisfaction, less negative or depressed mood, less stress and/or more stress-coping and better cardiovascular health.” In this study, 115 adults wearing heart monitors were tracked randomly through their day. When they were engaged in any leisure activity, the study reported significantly different physiological and psychological benefits than when they were not. Interestingly, the study determined it didn’t matter what leisure time activities the participants were doing; only that they really enjoyed them.

How can some popular hobbies specifically benefit us?

Board games for trust and compassion

I’m a big fan of board games. Our family played a lot of “Guess Who” on a recent week in Florida. It’s a thinking game that requires players t0 actually talk to each other, no emojis needed!! And who hasn’t laughed aloud during the game Taboo with your family or friends? Laughter actually increases the feel-good hormones, endorphins, and sharing laughter and fun can promote empathy, compassion and trust with other people, according to Health Fitness Revolution.

Knitting for pain relief

The New York Times recently reported the health benefits of knitting. Among those listed include stress relief, distraction from chronic pain and decreased memory loss.” When asked about the biggest benefits she believes her customers and fellow knitters receive from their craft, Nancy Cole, owner of Knitapestry in Midland Park, quotes the founder of modern knitting, Elizabeth Zimmerman, who said, “When properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either.”

Reading for brain health and stress relief

What’s the last book you read? In a survey of 1000 people, Huffington Post found that 28% hadn’t read a book in over a year! And given its benefits, everyone should have something on their bedside table. Prevention Magazine reported that adults who spent their free time doing creative (think knitting) or intellectual (think reading) had a 32% slower decline in cognitive function in later years. Also compelling, the University of Sussex found that reading was the “most effective way to overcome stress.” In fact, in a study reported by Reader’s Digest, stress levels of a reader group dropped a whopping 67% compared to non-readers.

So next time you find yourself with a spare hour on Sunday afternoon, pull out the cards or get out the gardening tools and see how terrific it makes you feel!


Stacy Geant Hughes, Certified Pilates Instructor, Certified Pink Ribbon Program specializing in post breast cancer surgery rehabilitation, Owner of Core Value Pilates, LLC in Ridgewood, NJ , (201) 638-0245

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