Skip to main content

As the situation in Ukraine evolves, businesses should be mindful of potential risks to their people, assets, operations, or supply chains in the region and globally. Marsh, as part of the Marsh McLennan family of companies, has created a page with information, tools, and resources related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Please visit the page for the latest information.

December 13, 2020

Six activities with serious health perks that aren’t exercise

When it comes to your health, you already know how important it is to eat well and stay active. But other hobbies and lifestyle changes—that have nothing to do with diet or exercise—can also offer a big payoff for your well-being. Try incorporating a few of these activities into your routine to benefit from reduced stress levels, lesser risk of certain diseases, lower blood pressure and much more.

1. Knitting and Crocheting

It might be time to pick up that half-finished crochet project again. Repetitive activities that put your hands to work can help relieve stress by getting you out of your head. Plus, a 2013 survey of 3,500 knitters uncovered a link between knitting and cognitive function: the more people knitted, the better brain function they had.

2. Playing with Your Pet

Good news for those with furry friends: caring for a pet has been shown to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and reduce feelings of loneliness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And dog owners might experience additional benefits, since walking your pup is a good form of exercise. According to a 2019 survey of 700 people, published in Scientific Reports, dog owners spent an average of 300 minutes per week walking their dogs. In all, they walked 200 more minutes per week than people who didn’t have dogs.

3. Cooking

It should come as no surprise that a home-cooked meal is healthier than one you’d get at a restaurant, where dishes are often prepared with lots of salt, butter and oil. According to a 2014 study, people who regularly eat at home consume about 130 fewer calories daily than those who eat out more. And teaching children how to cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients has been shown to help curb obesity.

4. Gardening

Growing your own fruits, veggies and herbs does more than provide fresh bounty for the dinner table. Studies have shown that gardening is better than other leisure activities for fighting stress. It might improve depression symptoms, too, since the sights and smells of a garden promote relaxation.

Research also suggests that gardening can lower your risk of developing dementia. In two different studies, people in their 60s and 70s who regularly gardened had a 36% and 47% lower risk of developing dementia than non-gardeners did.

You shouldn’t discount the physical activity gardening entails, either: according to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Health Promotion, short stretches of moderate “lifestyle” activities such as gardening can be just as beneficial as a trip to the gym.

5. Meditation

There’s a reason why meditation has been around for thousands of years. The ancient practice has been linked to a slew of health benefits, including improved digestion, lowered blood pressure, reduced stress-induced inflammation and the release of mood-boosting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

Meditation can also help ease pain. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers concluded that meditation could alleviate pain intensity by 27% and emotional pain by 44%. Shockingly, that’s more than the opioid morphine, which reduces physical pain by 22%.

6. Coloring

As with knitting, crafty projects such as coloring, drawing or painting can have powerful mental health benefits. Studies have shown that art therapy can help you relax and ease stress and anxiety. One study published in Western Journal of Medicine concluded that art therapy might help treat depression in troubled adolescents, who can use it as a way to express their feelings. Another study found that creative projects like art therapy, music and expressive writing could have healing benefits.

Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.