Timeless hobbies that boost health and fun

Some hobbies – and their health benefits – never go out of fashion. To shake up your routine and stimulate your mind and body, why not make some of your old favourites new again?

Physiotherapist David Hall reminds us that while they might not be considered cool or cutting edge, some traditional activities can be great ways to keep your body and mind active.  
Gardening, crosswords, cooking, swimming, volunteering – take your pick. In fact, choosing a mix of hobbies that “exercise the brain as well as the body” works best of all, says physiotherapist David Hall.
 
“Just keep in mind that the physical activity you choose needs to be something that suits your body shape, weight and strength levels. If in doubt, check with your GP or a health practitioner first.”
 
Here’s Hall’s take on five popular pastimes.

Aqua aerobics

“It’s no secret that water-based exercise is really beneficial for the 60-plus age group,” he says.
 
“What is nice about this activity is you can really control the amount of weight-bearing work you’re doing because you’re more buoyant. You’re able to work your muscles through a greater range of movement than you generally can on land.”
 
Vary the level of challenge by standing in different depths of water.
 
“If the water is up at shoulder level you are more buoyant and putting much less weight-bearing pressure through your joints. By walking into shallower water you can gradually apply greater pressure over time.”
older ladies doing aqua aerobics

Walking

“Walking ticks a lot of boxes. It’s a good core [stomach, lower back and pelvic floor muscles] and leg strengthening exercise. If you walk at a fast enough pace, you’re also getting in some cardio work.”
 
It’s also a good weight-bearing exercise, which is helpful for preventing osteoporosis and other bone density related issues later on.
 
“What I do see people doing, and don’t necessarily recommend, is walking with weights,” Hall says. Walking with weights uses one group of muscles repetitively and could lead to muscle strain.

Dancing

“Dancing is a good physical activity, but is also good for our brains as it wakes different parts of the brain and neural pathways.”
 
There are so many different types of dancing, so you can generally choose something you’re comfortable with.
 
“It is also social, fun and creative and taps into a deeper part of ourselves,” Hall adds. “I do a lot of dancing myself!”
lady reading paper on couch

Work out your brain

Mentally challenging activities such as puzzles, card games, board games, jigsaws, Sudoku and crosswords are great for brain fitness and may help ward off dementia.
 
It’s also important to do a variety of different mind activities so you are constantly working out different areas of your brain. If you do crosswords all the time, try alternating them with Sudoku. 

Creative home crafts

Renew a past love or learn a new skill such as of cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, art or woodwork. Why not enrol in a local class so you can also get out and about and meet new people.
 
“Any of these hobbies will give your brain the opportunity to break up your routine and concentrate on something else,” Hall says.
 
Finally, whatever you pick, make it fun.
 
“People need to enjoy the experience. Consider tying anything you do into spending time with friends or colleagues to get the added benefit of a bit of positive peer group pressure,” suggests Hall.

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