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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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