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The Health Benefits of Having a Hobby

The Health Benefits of Having a Hobby

Bonnie Raitt says her parents would drag her out to play the guitar for visiting family and picking and strumming was just a childhood hobby. The Wright brothers needed something to break-up the monotony of selling and repairing bicycles, so they looked around for an interesting pastime -- and built an airplane!

Clearly, you never know where having a hobby will lead. But a new report from the Mayo Clinic shows one benefit is certain: It sets you in the direction of a healthier life. Researchers tracked 256 people for four years, from about age 87 to 91, and found those who continued to make time for arts, crafts and other hobbies were a whopping 73% less likely to show signs of fuzzy thinking and memory slips. Volunteers took tests for signs of “mild cognitive impairment” at the start and finish of the study. In-between, those who fared best kept busy with everything from fine arts, like drawing and sculpting, to woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting and sewing.

But as Bonnie, Wilbur and Orville prove, the benefits of having a hobby don’t just apply to folks over age 80. Hobbies at any age, the scientists say, keep brain cells healthier. They stimulate the growth of new cells and new connections between cells, while maintaining healthy pathways that promote clear thinking and sharp memories. That means you build up more cognitive reserve and end up with a healthier, better-wired mind that can weather age-related brain changes with fewer problems. So where’s that old guitar?

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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