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8 Recreational Activities That Can Improve Your Health

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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.

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

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Last Updated on November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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Simplify

I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

Absolutely.

And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

  • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
  • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
  • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

Be Mindful

You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

Reflect

As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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