How to slow down ageing: Find something interesting to do
Pursuing your interests is more than just a pleasant pastime. A growing body of scientific research shows that doing something that interests you offers big mind-body benefits in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.
Hobbies make you live longer
This conclusion is coming in from research all around the world.
According to a study at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, men with no hobbies have higher levels of illness and take more sick leave.
It has also been shown that mortality risks are significantly higher in urban men who don't participate in hobbies, club activities or community groups, according to a study of more than 3,000 men by researchers at Gunma University School of Medicine in Maebashi, Japan.
"The people who think they are ageing well aren't necessarily the healthiest individuals."
In Canada, researchers from the University of Manitoba have shown that higher overall activity levels in older people promote happiness, improve functioning and lower mortality rates.
What's more, while the social and productive activities tend to produce physical benefits in terms of health and longevity, the more solitary pursuits, such as handiwork hobbies or a love of reading, bring more psychological benefits.
Even in centenarians, and among those with disabilities, ‘maintenance of social relationships is of major importance for survival’, according to a study from the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’.
Always look on the bright side
The people who think they are ageing well aren't necessarily the healthiest individuals.
One factor that emerges from many studies is that older people's sense of what it means to be ‘ageing well’ does not necessarily match traditional measures of good health and freedom from disability.
In fact, optimism and effective coping styles were found to be more important to successful ageing than traditional measures of health and wellness. Self-perception about ageing can be more important than the traditional success markers.
"People who found time every day for hobbies… ranked their satisfaction with the ageing process higher."
That means getting involved, feeling the sense of flow that comes when you're absorbed in something—whether it's baking cakes, reading a novel or playing a game with family or friends.
In many studies, for example, people who found time every day for hobbies, reading and friends ranked their satisfaction with the ageing process higher than those who were isolated and had fewer interests.
There are extra benefits of pursuing your interests. By cutting stress, it can lower your blood pressure and tame stress hormones that can wreak havoc with your blood sugar—thereby cutting your odds of having heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes or diabetes.
Not bad for an afternoon at the bridge table.