Whether you’re 20 or 60, keeping your daily lifestyle as active as possible is perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do for your health. Routine activities like gardening and DIY are remarkably effective at lowering your risk of disease, according to new research. But are active hobbies still needed when you do gym workouts each week?
The most recent study published last week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people with plenty of daily activity, often just simple physical hobbies, had a much lower risk death from any cause. The 12-year long research analysed the exercise patterns of 4,000 people in Sweden and found that over 60s, unsurprisingly, exercised the least. However, the researchers also found that even in the older adults who didn’t do regular exercise, simply doing regular daily activities like fixing the car was still enough to decrease their risks of strokes and reduce their heart disease risk by 27 percent.
So are ‘proper’ exercises still worth doing?
Yes. In fact, the Swedish research found that ‘real’ exercise was still the most effective measure to prevent heart disease and strokes. Children also need at least an hour each day of moderate activity which leaves them breathing harder.
But active hobbies are undoubtedly beneficial everyone and should be included as part of a healthy lifestyle. Although the research is particularly important for older people, all ages can heed the advice to keep our daily lives as active as possible, whether at the gym, work or home. Avoid collapsing on the sofa whenever you’re at home and you are establishing good habits for the rest of your life.
If you have active hobbies you don’t have to worry too much if you miss a gym session, or if illness or injury means you have to engage in more gentle activities for a few weeks. Just keep moving around in other ways. Plus, if you generally prefer a gentle swim to sweating it out doing high intensity workouts don’t worry that your workout isn’t as beneficial. As long as you are doing something which makes you breathe faster, feel warmer and makes your heart beast faster you are still benefitting your heart and body. Aim for 150 minutes each week and you know you’re keeping your body ticking over nicely.
At its most simple, anything we can do to avoid a sedentary lifestyle is the key to great heart health. In particular, try to be on your feet doing something for most of the day. A 2012 study found that people who spend less than three hours a day sitting down could add two years to their lifespan. Sitting down is also believed to disrupt hormone production, which has implications for our tissues and organs.
The key to keeping active is doing something you enjoy, which is why hobbies are so effective. Here’s some ideas.
Gardening. The low-impact tasks we do in the garden such as digging, weeding, mowing the lawn and hoeing add up to a well-balanced workout which helps to tone our muscles and exercise our heart. About 200 calories can be burned from 30 minutes of moderate-intensity gardening so it’s a great way to control body fat. Gardeners have been shown to have significantly lower body mass index and less chance of obesity than non-gardeners. Gardens also provide a chance to grow healthy food and improve your diet. Gardening has also been shown to be great for mental health. Done regularly, it can relieve stress as well as significantly improve the symptoms of depression.
DIY. Whether you’re hanging wallpaper, assembling a shelving unit or fixing the plumbing, doing home improvements burns calories and can boost your general health and well-being. You may do all kinds of stretches, lifts and bends while expending energy to have a great home and keep your health on track too. Raking leaves burns around 250 calories an hour, while painting walls burns over 200 calories. As well as working up a sweat, DIY helps you to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem.
Baking. Baking is physical work. Kneading bread dough, for example, is practically a full-body exercise when done energetically. Great for your arms, pectoral muscles and mid-section, 5-10 minutes of kneading raises your heart rate and is great therapy for stress.
Sex. Yes, it really does count as exercise. A 30 minute sex session will burn around 75 calories, and stretch and strengthen your muscles. It’s a great way to get the blood pumping and boost immunity too, but before you cancel the gym membership, consider getting sweaty in the gym first, then enjoying the feel-good benefits with your partner later.
As well as taking up active hobbies, aim to keep yourself moving as much as possible, even when you’re not at the gym. You will keep yourself warmer at home over winter, plus get plenty of things done. The best advice is to avoid being sedentary as if your life depended on it, because it really does.
by Kath Webb
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