When it comes to living longer, we usually think about the stuff we should cut out – like biscuits, alcohol and takeaways.
But what about the things we should take up, or be getting more of?
And yes, while it’s wise to eat healthily and quit smoking, to give yourself the longest innings possible, you don’t have to miss out on all the fun.
In fact, one of the best ways to live longer is to take up a hobby you enjoy.
Here are some that will really boost your quality, and potentially length, of life ...
Getting stuck into a book can reduce your stress levels by 69% (warding off heart attacks in the process), it bumps up your vocabulary, keeps your brain active with problem solving, enhances concentration and even makes it easier to get to sleep. Also, in some schools of thought, you can live hundreds of lives vicariously through the characters you read about. Add that to the tally!
2. Playing chess
Your brain will thank you for taking up chess. After all, it’s a mental game using both sides of it; it also boosts cognitive function, strategic thinking, memory and problem solving. And handily doesn’t put any extra pressure on your joints either!
Getting outside – whether you’re limited to your balcony, back garden or rambling allotment – and growing your own will not only keep you looking forward to the next harvest, but reduces stress, improves diet, counts as exercise and has been shown to help slow the onset of dementia. It helps you top up on vitamin D too, and working directly with the earth can also bolster a positive connection with the world around you – all good for your mental wellbeing.
Swimming is low impact but works every muscle in the body; it also lowers stress, gives you time and space to think and improves sleep. You can also build up your stamina and strength at a noticeable pace, making it easy to set targets and keep on achieving them.
5. Walking the dog
Similarly, walking the dog gets you out and about too. Walking is particularly beneficial exercise as you age, because it’s easy on the joints, but still gets the heart, lungs and muscles working. Having a creature to care for – that cares back – has also been found to improve mental wellbeing, hence the importance and effectiveness of animal assisted therapy in hospitals and nursing homes.
6. Team sports
Even better, join a team – be it netball, football, cricket or any other sports you might be interested in. Staying active and social are key to living a long, happy and fulfilled life. Loneliness can be incredibly debilitating and has been found to be damaging to your long term health – it’s been suggested that isolation is a bigger killer than obesity. Team sports combat both.
Numerous studies have shown that if you cook your own food from scratch, it’s much more likely to be healthy and nutritious than if you plump for takeouts and processed microwave ready meals. It’s also cheaper, requires dexterity and boosts self-esteem, plus, if you’re good at it, you’ll end up spending more time with friends and family, which boosts overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Although, the odd takeaway won’t kill you either!
8. Playing an instrument
Raise your IQ and brain function almost instantaneously by taking up an instrument – it’s never too late to learn. It’ll help hone your fine motor skills to boot – and will impress your friends. Once you feel confident, you could even sign up to an orchestra which will tick the ‘staying social’ box too.
Dancing, even just around your kitchen, releases endorphins (remember, it’s technically exercise), cuts stress, improves flexibility and has even been shown to make you smarter as it pushes you to keep getting better, simultaneously boosting cognitive acuity. Also, it’s fun!