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Fitness

Boost Your Mental Health With Outdoor Hobbies

Picture of American Specialty Health
By American Specialty Health on April 10, 2023
Boost Your Mental Health With Outdoor Hobbies

Hobbies can help ease stress and boost well-being. So can exercise and communing with nature. Combine the 3, and you may get triple the mental health benefits.

 

Taking up a hobby of any kind offers a host of mental health perks. Hobbies, especially meaningful ones, can spark creativity and satisfy curiosity. They can also stimulate your mind. They can even help ease stress and depression, while boosting your mood. If you want to enhance these health perks even further, choose a hobby that also gets you moving and out in nature.

Research suggests that time spent in nature can help ease stress.  When you spend that time in nature being active or exercising, you may gain even more mental health benefits. An active outdoor hobby can also lessen the amount of time you spend sitting, and it can help boost your fitness. If you already have a hobby that gets you moving and connects you with nature, that’s great. If not, think about trying one of these:

 

Make your hobby an outdoor adventure

Think about trying hiking, backpacking, or camping in your local backcountry. Or think about mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, sailing, or rock climbing. These hobbies, if you are new to them, are safest if you take some training classes first. At the very least, you may want to tag along with someone well versed in that sport. In general, these kinds of adventures are safer in groups or with a friend or family member. 

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Make nature your classroom

You might enjoy a hobby that gives your brain, as well as your body, a good workout. You could try birdwatching. You could learn about native plants. Or you could hike to a mountain peak for an overnight campout and some stargazing.

If you live near the ocean, you might explore the tide pools. If you live near a desert, you might enjoy hiking around and identifying rocks or geological features. Or you might enjoy looking for artifacts at an old ruin or archaeological site.

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Try geocaching as your new hobby

This free outdoor game blends high-tech tracking with active treasure hunting. The goal is to find a geocache, also known as a cache. This is typically a box with small rewards inside. Caches are often hidden in parks and off hiking trails. To find them, you download location coordinates onto a GPS device (like your smartphone) and then walk, bike, hike, or paddle to the loot. It’s a fun outdoor game that makes for a great workout, too.

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Give back to Mother Nature

You might join a local group and volunteer to help clean up a river, beach, or park. You could help build or maintain trails. You could try plogging—a combo of jogging and picking up litter. Or you might join a beautification group in your neighborhood that landscapes and plants trees and flowers. You could also volunteer to work on a community vegetable garden. 

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Think outside the hobby box

Try something novel. If you have a dog, look into agility training for your pooch. (You’ll both get a workout!) Or think about kite flying, archery, building sandcastles, or doing sidewalk chalk drawings. If you have a yard or a garden, there might be some outdoor improvement projects you would enjoy, like building a gazebo, a fire pit, or new flower beds. 

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No matter the active outdoor hobby you choose, you’ll enjoy plenty of fresh air and sunshine. You’ll be moving more and having fun. And you’ll reap even greater mental health rewards by experiencing the soothing sights, sounds, and smells of nature in the bargain.

 

 

Not a Silver&Fit® member? Learn more about everything the program has to offer, including more helpful healthy living tips like this, here on our website.

 

This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program. Images used for this article do not depict any members of the Silver&Fit Program.


References

Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care. (2019, July 11). Purposeful activities—hobbies. https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/meaningful-life/purposeful-activity/hobbies#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that%20people%20with,skills%20and%20relationships%20with%20others

Cleveland Clinic. (2022, December 7). Why giving is good for your health. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/11/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/

Conner, T. S., DeYoung, C. G., & Silvia, P. J. (2018). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(2), 181-189. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018). Levels of nature and stress response. Behavioral Sciences, 8(5), 49. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-328X/8/5/49

Fornasini, S., Dianti, M., Bacchiega, A., Forti, S., & Conforti, D. (2020, June 11). Using geocaching to promote active aging: Qualitative study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(6), e15339. https://doi.org/10.2196/15339

Fraser, M., Munoz, S. A., & MacRury, S. (2019, May 23). What motivates participants to adhere to green exercise? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(10). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101832

Graham, K. (2017, March 27). Get out! 5 benefits of outdoor exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6360/get-out-5-benefits-of-outdoor-exercise

Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, March 30). Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

Heller, A. S., Shi, T. C., Ezie, C. E. C., Reneau, T. R., Baez, L. M., Gibbons, C. J., & Hartley, C. A. (2020). Association between real-world experiential diversity and positive affect relates to hippocampal–striatal functional connectivity. Nature Neuroscience, 23(7), 800-804. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-020-0636-4

Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2016, April 2). Reduction of cortisol levels and participants’ responses following art making. Art Therapy (Alex), 33(2), 74-80. https://doi.org/10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832

Laskowski, E. R. (2022, July 13). What are the risks of sitting too much? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005

McCarthy, C. (2020, April 13). Not a staycation: Isolating at home affects our mental health (and what to do). https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/not-a-staycation-isolating-at-home-affects-our-mental-health-and-what-to-do-2020041319519

Parkhurst, E. (2021, October 25). How hobbies improve mental health. Utah State University. https://extension.usu.edu/mentalhealth/articles/how-hobbies-improve-mental-health

University of Connecticut. (n.d.). Introduction to GPS resources. https://media.clear.uconn.edu/geospatial/workshops/HandheldGPS/GPSresources.htm

 

This article was written by Gail Olson, edited by Nora Byrne, and clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RDN.

 

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