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Center for Cognitive Health

Hobbies, Are They Really That Important?

Many of us are stretched for time and lead busy lifestyles. By the time we reach the end of our day, the idea of sitting in front of the TV seems very appealing.

However, there could be a more proactive and beneficial use of our time! It may seem like we don’t have time for hobbies, but hobbies that are developed or maintained early on in our lives may help us stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

Hobbies may protect our brain. An article in Psychology Today states that engaging in a hobby at least one hour per day may protect against Alzheimer’s later in life. Hobbies may also help improve your function as you age. A 2016 study found that those without hobbies or a perceived purpose in life have a significantly higher risk of not only mortality, but also a decline in activities of daily living [6].

Not only can a hobby keep your cognitive abilities strong, it can also have positive effects on your mood. Hobbies are fun and enjoyable. They can provide comfort, reduce the risk of depression, increase socialization, and even improve physical health.  Art  based hobbies provide a chance for self-expression and a chance to process reactions to emotions and ideas. An article exploring the link between painting and dementia states that, “Artistic production itself is a complex cognitive behavior involving at least vision, praxis, memory, and executive functions: this list does not even consider the kind of emotional processing and inspirations that might give birth to such art” [1]. A 2011 study states that art therapy has been reported to improve attention, interest,  joy, self-respect, and quality of life in those with dementia [3]. The National Institute on Aging states that engaging in creative activities can improve creativity, memory, and problem solving skills. Some art related hobbies include drawing, painting, collage, knitting, weaving, coloring, do it yourself (DIY) projects, and woodworking.

If you are reading this and currently don’t practice any hobbies, don’t fret! New hobbies can always be learned and will help stimulate your brain. Starting a new hobby can help you acquire new skills that may serve you later in life. Remember to stay socially active as well. Interacting with others is very important and even provides an opportunity to share your hobbies with others. Here is a list of possible hobbies: playing cards, gardening, swimming, yoga, photography, caring for a pet, or volunteering. The Alzheimer’s Association says that physical activities increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain and improve brain health. Walking is a great physical hobby!

 If you or your loved one is currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a form of dementia, hobbies can help increase a sense of purpose in life and overall quality of life throughout the stages of the disease. Alzheimer’s patients without daily hobbies may experience a faster progression of symptoms or  worsening cognitive function. Many hobbies can be even adapted to be more enjoyable for those with dementia as their symptoms worsen. Cooking can serve as a hobby, as well as, encourage socialization and interaction with others. Indulging in your loved ones hobbies can help them better deal with the loss of their cognitive abilities. If you are a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s, click on this link for some Tips to Help a Person With Dementia Make An Activity Fun. The repetitive aspect that hobbies provide helps those with Alzheimer’s continue to do things that bring them joy. An article in the American Journal on Aging [7] states that, “Hobbies help people to identify and recognize remaining abilities; they communicate information to others, and reflect personality and family background. Hobbies also are cultural activities connecting a person with their background, and to the larger community.”

[1] Cipriani, G., Cipriani, L., Danti, S., Picchi, L., & Fiorino, M. D. (2019). Links Between Painting and Neurology: The Example of Dementia. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease & Other Dementias®,153331751982629. doi:10.1177/1533317519826293
[2] Duan, Y., Lu, L., Chen, J., Wu, C., Liang, J., Zheng, Y., . . . Tang, C. (2018). Psychosocial interventions for Alzheimer’s disease cognitive symptoms: A Bayesian network meta-analysis. BMC Geriatrics,18(1). doi:10.1186/s12877-018-0864-6
[3] Hattori, H., Hattori, C., Hokao, C., Mizushima, K., & Mase, T. (2011). Controlled study on the cognitive and psychological effect of coloring and drawing in mild Alzheimers disease patients. Geriatrics & Gerontology International,11(4), 431-437. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0594.2011.00698.x
[4] How Hobbies Impact Your Head and Your Heart. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201706/how-hobbies-impact-your-head-and-your-heart
[5] How to Help a Person With Dementia Continue to Enjoy Their Hobbies. (2018, July 20). Retrieved from https://www.alzheimers.net/help-a-person-with-dementia-continue-to-enjoy-their-hobbies/
[6] Tomioka, K., Kurumatani, N., & Hosoi, H. (2016). Relationship of Having Hobbies and a Purpose in Life With Mortality, Activities of Daily Living, and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Among Community-Dwelling Elderly Adults. Journal of Epidemiology,26(7), 361-370. doi:10.2188/jea.je20150153
[7] Yatczak, Jayne. “The Power of Ritual and Hobbies: Engaging in Favorite Pastimes Can Help People with Dementia .(Viewpoint Essay).” Generations (San Francisco, California), vol. 35, no. 3, 2011, pp. 71–73.