Hobbies are jobs we do for free. And most of us have at least one. Our hobbies give us a sense of accomplishment, mastery, and control. And they’re just plain fun.

Some hobbies, in particular, are beneficial because they keep us mentally and physically healthy. While stamp collecting alone isn’t the pathway to a healthy life, it definitely helps lower stress and increases endorphins.

Here are 5 healthy hobbies to consider:

1. Surfing

Have you ever noticed how physically fit and emotionally calm surfers are? They cut across the ocean’s surface, riding dangerous waves, carefree and loving life. Most surfers have this laidback attitude because surfing is one of the best hobbies for staying in shape and calming the mind.

Don’t cross surfing off the list just because you live far from a body of water. Thanks to modern technology, surfing is no longer limited to coastal towns and beaches. Many entertainment facilities and rec centers have indoor surfing machines that keep the waves flowing constantly, so you can do it any time of the year without waiting to catch the perfect wave.

2. Hiking

You may not think of hiking as a hobby, but millions of people regularly take to the hills, mountains, and forest trails to get exercise and calm the mind. Hiking is good aerobic exercise. And walking with a loaded backpack strengthens leg muscles and helps improve your balance.

If you fight bouts of depression, science says communing with nature can help. Quiet areas like state parks and mountain trails help you feel tranquil. Many remote hiking spots have little or no cell phone service. Hiking is also ideal for getting away from the office or combating workaholism.

Hiking doesn’t take much investment to get started. A backpack, some trail grub, and a hefty water bottle are the basic tools. You can hike alone or join a hiking group for some outdoorsy comradery.

Best of all, you’ll gain plenty of new experiences, photos, and stories of your adventures to share with your friends and family.

3. Dancing

Dancing is a hobby packed with mental and physical benefits. It takes the aerobic and social benefits of fitness programs like Zumba or Dance Fit and adds an artistic component. Music gets our bodies moving even when we don’t feel like it.

Because there’s no right or wrong way to dance, you can do it to express yourself. Go as fast or as slow as you want. Dress in formal attire or cut a rug in casual clothes. It’s all about how you feel. And it’s a hobby you can perform solo, share with a partner, or perform with a large group. Dancing is perfect for both the introvert and the more gregarious.

Dancing is also a hobby perfect for seniors looking to stay healthy while having fun. It’s a low impact activity that’s easy on your joints and muscles. Keeping time while moving your body helps your coordination. And studies show dancing improves balance in older people.

4. Gardening

Gardening lets you not only commune with nature but create it. It’s a hobby that requires plenty of physical stamina. Lifting bags of sod builds strength in your back and legs. Bending over to plant seeds or pull weeds helps increase your flexibility.

Additionally, gardening in the spring helps fight Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brought on by the darker winter months. It gets you out in the sunshine and helps restore your Vitamin D levels.

The tranquility and nurturing that gardening promotes makes it a natural stress reliever. But you don’t need to grow a traditional vegetable or flower garden to find peace of mind. Millions of people find tranquility in Japanese rock gardens. Today, people all over the world use “Zen gardens” to increase contemplation and mindfulness. And because Japanese gardens use dry landscape like rocks, they don’t need watering.

5. Acting

From local community theaters to small film projects, there are plenty of opportunities to support acting as a hobby. Acting builds mental and physical strength.

When you act, you practice physical balance, strength, movement, and eye-hand coordination. While these physical requirements shift depending on the role (Shakespearean soliloquy vs. dance number) — both are physically demanding. Plus, many actors lend a hand in setting up the stage or building props, which also takes physical exertion.

Acting also keeps you mentally healthy. It requires memorization of lines, hitting marks, and being creative. These are all effective at improving your memory and boosting confidence. Standing in front of an audience is no small task. Acting helps you overcome your fears, meet your goals, and increase your self-esteem.

6. Photography

You may think taking photographs is mostly an artistic endeavor with little physical effort. But, as any photographer will tell you, it’s actually a very physically demanding hobby.

Camera equipment is heavy. Lights are bulky. And covering a wedding takes as much patience and physical stamina as photographing African elephants. But it’s worth it to get the perfect shot. That’s why photographers hike into remote wooded areas or stand for hours waiting for optimal lighting conditions. They kneel, climb, crouch, bend, and even run to get the right angle, the perfect pose, or that fleeting moment.

Photography isn’t all physical stress and strain. It also pushes you to be patient, to appreciate your surroundings, and to be more sociable. Along with its artistic side, photography takes many technical skills.

Photographers need a working knowledge of camera settings, lenses, light meters, and software. It’s a hobby that challenges both sides of your brain.

These six hobbies are good ones to start with, but there are also practical considerations. When choosing the right hobby for you, ask yourself questions like:

  • How high are the startup costs?
  • How much equipment will I need?
  • Are there long-term financial costs?
  • How much time will this take from my daily life?
  • Is this a hobby I can still do when I’m older? Or if I get sick?

Answers to these questions will help you find a practical hobby that will keep you happy and healthy.

Morgen Henderson

Morgen lives in the Salt Lake Valley where she is surrounded by beautiful mountains. When she's not writing, she enjoys taking in the fresh mountain air, baking, and traveling the globe.