Bonnie Raitt says that her parents would drag her out to play the guitar for visiting family and that picking and strumming was just a childhood hobby. The Wright brothers needed something to break up the monotony of selling and repairing bicycles, so they looked around for an interesting pastime — and built an airplane!
Clearly, you never know where having a hobby will lead. But a new report from the Mayo Clinic shows that one benefit is certain: It sets you in the direction of a healthier life. Researchers tracked 256 people for four years, from about age 87 to 91, and found that those who continued to make time for arts, crafts and other hobbies were a whopping 73 percent less likely to show signs of fuzzy thinking and memory slips. Volunteers took tests for signs of “mild cognitive impairment” at the start and finish of the study. In-between, those who fared best kept busy with everything from fine arts, such as drawing and sculpting, to woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting and sewing.
But as Bonnie, Wilbur and Orville proved, the benefits of having a hobby don’t just apply to folks over age 80. Hobbies at any age, the scientists say, keep brain cells healthier. They stimulate the growth of new cells and new connections between cells, while maintaining healthy pathways that promote clear thinking and sharp memories. That means you build up more cognitive reserve and end up with a healthier, better-wired mind that can weather age-related brain changes with fewer problems. So where’s that old guitar?
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit sharecare.com.