Healthy Hobbies for Graceful Aging
By Steve Johnson of Public Health Library
Embracing a healthy lifestyle is paramount for living a long life, but it’s not as simple as just eating well and getting in moderate exercise. Studies show that staying socially active through hobbies helps seniors lengthen their lifespans while improving its quality.
Avoiding isolation through activities that stimulate you both mentally and socially is as important as going to the doctor and being physical in your day-to-day life. Hobbies can especially help seniors who are getting over illness or addiction. They provide structure, social constructs, and help boost self-esteem-- all things necessary for recovery.
Try one of the below hobbies to help you live a longer, healthier life.
If moving around isn’t as easy as it used to be, swimming is the perfect hobby to pick up in order to work stiff joints and muscles without straining your body. Swimming puts you in a low-pressure atmosphere, allowing you to glide through motions with ease compared to being on land.
Swimming helps improve strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. It can also help with balance and muscle tension while releasing feel-good endorphins in the brain. Find a senior swimming class in your neighborhood or hit the pool on your own and freestyle.
Gardening is a meditative experience that provides gentle physical activity that’s perfect for seniors. It increases mobility and flexibility while getting one outside to soak up natural vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D--or the “sunshine vitamin”-- helps the body fight off disease, reduces depression, and boosts weight loss efforts. Along with proteins and calcium, vitamin D is also necessary for bone density and muscle growth.
Additionally, gardening has psychological benefits. It gives a person a sense of purpose and responsibility. Gardening satiates our desire to nurture something while also easing anxiety and promoting mindfulness.
Most yoga classes involve low impact exercises where seniors can modify the poses to make it easier on their body. Yoga helps relieve stress and alleviates hypertension. The stretching and pose-holding also strengthens bones and promotes balance. Perhaps best of all, yoga provides a supportive community of like-minded peers that care about personal growth and health. Yoga studios pop up on every corner nowadays, but most senior centers and community clubs also offer it, since it is so popular with the 50+ crowd.
Many people don’t realize the deep well of creativity they have until they tap into it in their senior years. Creating visual art stimulates the brain, which is proven to help stave off Alzheimer’s. Whether you want to paint, sculpt, scrapbook, or get creative with cross stitch, knitting, or sewing, the benefits of creating art are universal.
Art also provides opportunities for social engagements. Whether you participate in a class or invite friends over to create together, it’s a fun activity where there are no mistakes to be made, so it’s very low pressure for those who may be on the shy or nervous side.
Those who want to spend their remaining years pursuing a healthy lifestyle may focus on eating a well-rounded diet and getting in enough exercise… but is that enough to truly maintain a high quality of life? Recent studies show that staying mentally and socially active through hobbies helps improve quality of life for seniors.
Gentle physical activities like swimming provide physical movement without being too hard on the body. Gardening is perfect for those who like to spend time outdoors and those who love to nurture. Yoga is popular among seniors because it is customizable and provides community. Finally, creating visual art helps seniors tap into their creativity and stimulate their brains, which can actually help with dementia.