We all recognize that exercise and diet play significant roles in our health. But did you know that participating in activities you enjoy may also help support healthy aging?

The National Institute on Aging reports that there are many benefits that seniors can gain by devoting some time to doing an activity or engaging in a hobby. Research shows that people who engage in hobbies enjoy better moods, experience less stress, and have lower heart rates. 

Hobbies add energy and a sense of satisfaction to our lives. Hobbies alleviate stress serving as a distraction from work or personal issues. They encourage us to take a break while giving us a sense of purpose. These interests offer new challenges and experiences, excitement, and a chance to explore your talents. 

To keep your brain sharp and your mood optimistic, try a hobby. Some people need an intense and risky activity. However, a thrill-seeking person who loves to jump out of airplanes may also enjoy a less strenuous activity such as reading. Research indicates that any healthy hobby that brings joy is good for you. Adding a new hobby stimulates different areas of the brain and can enhance your lifestyle. But keep in mind that a hobby should be fun and joyful. If you do not find pleasure in an activity, drop it, and find something else. 

As the weather improves, many of us will seek an outdoor hobby. Experts say that the summer may be the best time for exercise due to the weather, more extended periods of daylight, and lots of sunshine, which provides vitamin D that improves our mood. What are some outdoor activities and hobbies for active seniors?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seniors engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, which would include “brisk walking,” meaning that you can talk but not sing while walking. Walking gives you time to explore your neighborhood, chat with loved ones in person or via phone, get your joints moving and increase your heart rate.

If walking sounds too dull, perhaps giving yourself a purpose will excite you. Consider adding birdwatching, which is growing in popularity. This activity can sharpen your mind and give you a deeper connection with the outdoors. There are great smartphone apps, such as Audubon and Merlin, that list best local birdwatching sites. A field guide such as National Geographic’s Birds of North America and a set of binoculars can get you going. Birding can prove to be an excellent socializing activity as you meet fellow neighborhood birders.

Perhaps your interests do not include birds but instead focus on architecture, colors, shapes or textures. Then grab your phone or camera and bring it along on your walk to snap photos of objects that capture your attention. You may see interesting buildings such as a courthouse or a cathedral, gardens filled with colorful flowers, or even a fountain in a park.

Gardening offers digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, watering, mixing and planting (whew!). It can be physically challenging, but you will develop a more profound appreciation for nature. In addition to the physical benefits, gardening may reduce stress, improve happiness, build strength, and give you a boost of vitamin D. 

Spending time in the soil is good for the body and soul. Gardening is one of the most relaxing and fulfilling hobbies. Additionally, you may find yourself eating healthier as you grow your own herbs and veggies.

Visiting a local pick-your-own fruit or veggie farm with its constant bending down and walking also gives you a reason to be outside. Visiting a local farm can be a fun activity for the entire family. Select the produce, such as strawberries or grapes, and turn them into delicious pies.

If you have access to a pool, jump on in. Swimming is one of the best exercises because it presents little risk of injury and is low impact. Water exercises work all the muscle groups and give you a complete workout.

A round of golf provides exercise only if you walk the course and not ride in the cart. (Sorry!) However, it does offer social benefits. Playing miniature golf does not require much stamina, but it provides an opportunity to involve the entire family in a fun outdoor activity.

Another slightly physical activity for seniors is fishing. While you likely will spend most of the time sitting, fishing still requires skill. This peaceful activity is not too strenuous and can be an excellent way to clear your mind while being in nature.

While enjoying your outdoor activities, remember it is essential to stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, stretch, start slowly and listen to your body to know when it is time to quit.

Activities enrich our life, work and relationships. By making simple lifestyle changes, we can make significant strides to lead healthier lives. Mounting medical research proves that if we choose to stand up, sit less and move more, we can experience many attainable benefits to our mental and physical health.

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