Written by Emma Cronin
Emma Cronin is a registered nurse and midwife within AXA Health's Health at Hand team.
Having a hobby can give you a sense of satisfaction, pleasure, relaxation – or exhilaration; an opportunity to socialise with like-minded people or to switch off from everyone and everything around you and immerse yourself in something that’s just for you. Whatever you do and for whatever reason, there’s little doubt that taking time to do something you enjoy on a regular basis can have a positive effect on your sense of wellbeing and help you deal with the stresses of everyday life. But did you know that hobbies can have a significant impact on your physical health too?
So much so that UK GPs are being encouraged to ‘refer’ patients to a broad range of local clubs and activities covering everything from art history to Zumba, to help address their health issues; something you may have heard referred to as “social prescribing”.
Emma Cronin, a registered nurse in our Health at Hand team explains how it works.
Health benefits of hobbies
A growing body of research shows that hobbies can help reduce the risk of depression, improve physical health and reduce social isolation and loneliness.
"It’s widely recognised that an increase in physical activity can help protect us against all sorts of serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis… the list goes on. So any pastime that gets you moving more is likely to be beneficial," says Emma.
"Add an element of the outdoors (hiking or gardening, for example), competition, or memorising steps (think tai chi or salsa dancing) and those benefits may extend to a greater sense of wellbeing, self-worth, and improved brain function."
Even relatively sedentary pursuits can help boost health. A 2019 Mayo Clinic study found that mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, playing games, craft activities, using a computer and even going out with friends or to the cinema can help slow or delay age-related memory loss (dementia); something that can’t be done with medication.