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8 Recreational Activities That Can Improve Your Health

8 Recreational Activities That Can Improve Your Health

People who partake in sports seriously and regularly are a bit of an enigma to me; I am just not that kind of person. I prefer the more everyday fun activities that are technically exercise but not in the serious, how-much-can-you-bench sense. Not that I don’t have tremendous respect for people who do those kinds of sports. If you’re the same as me though, Melissa Breyer of Mother Nature Network has some more recreational forms of exercise that can improve our physical and mental health:
Running and weightlifting may result in chiseled calves and bulging biceps, but social dancing and ping pong aren’t without their own benefits. While fitness magazines may promote the sexy sheen of a sweaty workout, sports that require less exertion offer some truly salubrious rewards. The following activities may require concentration, coordination, and practice, but these low-impact alternatives to more grueling sports also happen to be fun and social, adding even more to their charms.

1. Social dancing

Why go to the gym when you can Foxtrot, swing and waltz the night away? The benefits of cutting the rug include stress-reduction, cardiovascular health and a positive social environment.

But that’s not all. According to the Stanford University Dance Division, a study was conducted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. What they found was that of all cognitive and physical activities examined — from tennis and swimming to reading and crossword puzzles — frequent dancing scored the highest with a whopping 76 percent risk reduction for dementia. As it turns out, dancing integrates several brain functions at once – kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional — which combine to work wonders for neural connectivity.

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2. Bowling

“The Dude” in the film “The Big Lebowski” may have been a pot-smoking layabout, but his penchant for bowling actually defies his slacker demeanor. Not only does bowling burn some 240 calories per hour, but it strengthens and tones upper-body muscles, improves heart and respiratory fitness, and increases endurance while maintaining bone density.

According to Bowling World Newspaper, the average bowler swings a bowling ball a full 360 degrees (200 degree back and 160 degree down). In a three-game series, an average bowler with a 16-pound ball swings a cumulative 864 pounds in a full circle (54 shots multiplied by 16 pounds per shot). And those well-focused steps to deliver the ball? With an average of 60 feet per turn, a bowler walks 6/10 of a mile in a three-game series.

3. Walking

The remarkable powers of such a mundane — yet wonderful — activity as putting one foot in front of the other are detailed in 8 astonishing benefits of walking. To summarize, studies have proven a connection to each of the following in association with walking: a lower risk of developing dementia; a lower risk of suffering a stoke; a higher likelihood of surviving breast cancer; significant improvements in fatigue, depression and mental capacity for people suffering from fibromyalgia; decreased use of medication; significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes; and greater sexual desire and satisfaction. (Be right back, going for a walk.)

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4. Fencing

It doesn’t get any more debonair than fencing; just think of Hollywood’s golden age of soave swashbucklers (and those tight swashbuckling pants) if you have any doubts. But beyond dashing good looks and smooth moves, fencing has some wonderfully surprising health benefits. Aside from its physical benefits, researchers in one study looked at fencing to see if it is effective in counteracting the cognitive deterioration that comes with aging. They found that “players must make quick decisions while engaged in the sport, and there’s a great deal of emphasis placed on visual attention and flexibility. The sport trains a number of cognitive functions, including planning, cognitive flexibility, initiating appropriate actions and holding back inappropriate actions.” They concluded that indeed, fencing is linked to less age-related cognitive decline.

5. Golf

On average, while playing a nine-hole golf course, golfers who walk and carry their bag burn 721 calories; golfers using a pull cart use 718 calories, golfers walking with a caddie expend 613 calories and even golfers using a golf cart burn 411 calories. Along with the social component, fresh air and sunlight, golf also offers longevity. A study conducted in Sweden found the death rate for golfers is 40 percent lower than for other people of the same demographic; resulting in an extra five years tacked on to the life expectancy.

6. Volleyball

Volleyball may be one of the more vigorous activities on this list, but given that it often occurs in bathing suits and on the beach, it gets a special spot in the “quite enjoyable” sports category.

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There are a unique variety of physical movements like jumping, squatting, diving and pivoting. It improves eye-hand coordination, and helps improve flexibility to the limbs as well as the hands and feet. Volleyball requires mental focus, provides social benefits, builds muscle and can burn up to 585 calories in 45 minutes. And for older adults who play chair volleyball, a 2007 study reported in the Activities, Adaptation and Aging Journal found that players benefited significantly from the positive effects that it had on their social health.

7. Roller-skating

Whether you lean towards Gene Kelly’s elegant roller-skating dance moves or to the tough dames of roller derby, gliding about on wheels appeals to a wide array of tastes. Roller-skating offers a broad workout for many of the body’s muscles, as well as providing great stretching and cardiovascular benefit. An hour of skating burns nearly 500 calories for the average 150-pound person.

And if you like running but your knees don’t agree, roller skating may be the perfect alternative; a study by the University of Massachusetts found that roller-skating causes 50 percent less impact on your joints than running.

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8. Ping pong

Although you basically stand in the same spot, ping pong provides a great cardiovascular workout and improves reflexes and core tone; it improves joint mobility of both upper and lower extremities and helps to increase energy over time. And because it depends on eye-hand coordination and rapid thinking, it is highly stimulating to brain activity.

“In ping pong, we have enhanced motor functions, enhanced strategy functions and enhanced long-term memory functions,” Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University, told ABC News. According to Suzuki, the tabletop sport works parts of the brain that are responsible for movement, fine motor skills and strategy. Just imagine getting smarter by swatting a ball around that weighs less than a 10th of an ounce.

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, health, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. She is currently loving life in Brooklyn, NY.

The Surprising Health Benefits Of 8 Recreational Sports | Mother Nature Network

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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