picnic basket on green grass near a body of water
July is National Parks and Recreation month. When I think of parks and recreation, I think of leisure activities. Leisure activities are defined as physically feasible and enjoyable activities that one performs or engages in during their free time. Time spent away from work, business, chores and necessary activities like eating and sleeping, leisure activities usually emphasize mental and physical feelings of freedom and choice.
Examples of leisure activities can include quiet activities such as afternoon tea, bonsai trimming, coloring, reading or meditating. Try more active activities like exercising, gardening, fishing, kite flying, swimming, pickleball or just going for a walk. Enjoy hobbies like knitting, birdwatching, photography, art or woodworking. Learn new games like chess, playing cards or working on puzzles.
How does leisure affect aging? According to research published by the National Institute on Aging in September of 2022, some leisure activities may improve longevity for older adults. These activities include running, jogging, cycling (outdoors or indoor on a stationary bike), swimming, racquet sports, golf and walking. However, even low energy activities such as enjoying a friend’s company, visiting with family or talking to your grandchildren on the phone can promote overall well-being, improve physical, mental and emotional health and reduce isolation.
Here are three advantages of leisure activities for older adults:
- Leisure activities improve emotional and mental wellbeing. These activities improve emotions and mental abilities in expressing how you feel. Also, activities such as puzzles and card games can strengthen organizational and problem-solving skills, improving mental alertness. Even just a good engaging conversation can help to stimulate the mind!
- Leisure activities help you to have a fulfilling social life. Most individuals, especially older adults thrive in good company and healthy relationships. Anytime you can spend quality time with other humans that are similar to you or like to do the same activities you do, it provides you the gift of companionship and fosters meaningful relationships. This leads to feelings of inclusion and calmness.
- Leisure activities help strengthen and improve physical health. Light exercises can improve mobility, balance and flexibility. Even a daily walk with a buddy, stretching classes or chair yoga can be beneficial. Moving your body can help with muscle strength and improve coordination. It can strengthen your cardiovascular and respiratory well-being. As with all exercise, please check with your health care practitioner to get approval before starting.
The body heals with play; the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.