A sedentary lifestyle can have a profoundly negative impact on every aspect of your health. There’s the obvious fact that sitting on the couch isn’t going to help you burn calories or build muscle. Beyond that, however, the couch potato life can lead to weaker bones, a sluggish immune system, a higher risk of serious diseases including diabetes, and even depression.
If you’d like to be more active, try one of these activities! From modern-day treasure hunts to mastering the art of dance, you’ll have fun and reap the benefits of an active hobby.
Learn to Dance
Dancing can have a profound impact on your health–and not just by raising your heart rate. According to Healthline, studies have found that it boosts your mood, improves overall cognitive performance, increases your flexibility and balance, and more.
The best part is that you can start learning in your own living room. No matter what style of dance interests you, there’s probably a free video on YouTube teaching you how to do it. Egyptian belly dance? Of course. Want to master the Lindy Hop with your sweetheart? These instructors have you covered. Many dances can be done solo just for the fun of movement, so don’t worry if you don’t have a partner. There are even instructors who teach dance techniques for wheelchair users!
Ah, the great outdoors! Hiking is not only great exercise but also good for the soul. Like walking, it’s a low-impact activity that gets your blood pumping and works your major muscle groups. In addition, spending time in nature can reduce stress and help you feel more grounded–literally.
To get started, you’ll need the right shoes and socks. However, it’s also a good idea to invest in a few pieces of lightweight, breathable clothing that covers your limbs. Depending on where you live, biting insects including mosquitoes and ticks can be a real problem. A hiking pole isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’re new to the hobby. And, of course, you’ll need to carry plenty of water.
Try Water Aerobics
Water aerobics isn’t just for senior citizens–although there’s a good reason why this active hobby is so popular with people over 65. Normally, aerobics is a high-impact exercise, meaning that it can be tough on your ankles, knees, and hips. When you move it to the pool, however, you no longer have to worry about your joints. As a bonus, the water provides natural resistance to your movements.
To attract younger customers, some water aerobics instructors offer Aqua Zumba, a modified form of the dance workout that takes place in the water. You can groove to the music and work up a sweat as you mimic the moves of the instructor.
Go Bird Watching
Bird watching isn’t usually seen as a fun, active hobby–but that’s because most people have never tried it. While it does require quite a bit of patience and learning, it’s also a rewarding and surprisingly active hobby.
Getting to know the species that live in your neighborhood helps you understand the local ecosystem better. However, most bird watchers travel in search of rare or interesting sightings. Armed with a notebook and a pair of binoculars, birders may go for long strolls through the park, hike through the woods, or even go on a photo safari. The Audobon Society has plenty of tips to help you get started.
Few hobbies offer more benefits than gardening. It teaches patience and helps you build a connection with the earth. It’s good for reducing stress and improving cardiovascular fitness. It gets you outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with beautiful flowers and fresh produce to enjoy.
Is gardening an expensive hobby? It depends. A few packages of seeds, some potting soil, and a few terra cotta pots can get you started. However, if you start getting into heirloom seeds, rare houseplants, and extensive plantings, the price can quickly add up.
Play a Team Sport
No matter where you live, there’s probably an amateur league for your favorite sport. And if there’s not, start one! Playing a team sport is great exercise and gives you an opportunity to spend time with people you might not meet otherwise.
Meetup.com is a good place to find groups in your area, but you can also check with local rec centers. Where I live, there’s an active pickleball group that welcomes new players of all ages and skill levels. A friend of mine recently took up curling–a winter sport played on an ice rink–even though he lives in the South.
If you haven’t already tried yoga, what are you waiting for? It couldn’t be any more mainstream and accepted, and there are so many varieties out there that you’re bound to find something that works for you. Yoga increases flexibility and improves balance–things that become increasingly important as you get older. It’s also a great way to relieve stress and get in touch with your body.
You don’t need specialized equipment or even a class at a studio to get started with yoga. There are lots of resources online, including the very popular Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. You can also find yoga routines adapted to people with different mobility issues, making it one of the most accessible active hobbies.
Learn to Juggle
Did you know that juggling is good for your brain? It isn’t as hard as it looks, and there’s something very satisfying–almost meditative–about keeping the balls aloft. That’s because you aren’t consciously tracking the trajectory of each ball in motion but trusting your body to act. Like other repetitive activities that keep your body occupied and your mind free to wander, it’s a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Wired recently ran a fascinating article about learning to juggle that goes into more detail about the brain benefits. It’s a hobby that requires pretty much zero equipment and minimal space, and that you can practice whenever you have a few moments of downtime.
Go on a Photo Hunt
The camera in your cell phone right now is better than 99% of the photography equipment that came before it. It’s truly wild how sophisticated phone cameras have become, and you can capture some incredible shots with a little practice.
Grab your phone and head out to find images that interest you. You might discover that photographing textures, such as chipping paint or tree bark, is your thing. Or maybe you prefer snapping pictures of flowers, animals, people, or buildings. The world is your studio, so get out there and explore it through the lens of your camera. If you take a shot that you love, it’s not expensive to have it printed on photo paper.
Ride a Bike
When was the last time you rode a bike? Other than cyclists, who take their hobby seriously, it’s not that common to find Americans over the age of twelve who ride bikes for fun. You don’t need to invest hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in a top-tier bicycle to enjoy the benefits of cycling. Look for a used bike in good condition, but buy a new helmet. You should never buy a used helmet for safety reasons.
Cycling is relatively easy on the joints but still counts as cardiovascular exercise. Beyond that, though, it’s just a lovely way to get outdoors and have fun. It’s even better if you go with a group of friends or family. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water–and always wear your helmet.
About once a year, the thought occurs to me that I should get into weight lifting. I like the idea of being strong, plus building muscle is a great way to improve your overall health. Weight training can be tricky to do at home, however, since form is so important. Lifting the wrong way could result in a serious injury, so if you decide to try it, work with a trainer at first.
Setting up a home gym isn’t that expensive, especially if you start with a couple of basic sets of dumbbells. Weight lifting challenges you to keep pushing for a new personal best and to test yourself to the very limits. If that’s not empowering, then I don’t know what is.
What is geocaching? It’s like a worldwide treasure hunt that anyone can play using just a smartphone and your powers of observation. You can explore unexpected places in your own hometown or travel to breathtaking places.
It’s easy to get started–just download the app, create an account, and pull up a map of geocaches in your area. These treasure troves come in different types of containers, from no bigger to a keychain to a chest fit for a pirate. Once you find the cache, sign the logbook and celebrate your discovery! As with the 80s adventure movies I grew up on, the real treasure is the journey. Some caches contain little trinkets to trade, but the fun is in the searching.