How Leisure Activities Affect Your Health
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 8/5/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
How often do you make time for leisure? When was the last time you took time off and truly enjoyed life without any concerns or worries?
It can be hard to take a break for leisure when our lives are drowning in long to-do lists. We have also been sold the hustler’s productivity as the only way to make it in life. So, we get habitually burnt out from overworking and not taking time off regularly.
When we finally manage to enjoy some downtime, how do you know if your leisure time was well spent? You should ideally feel refreshed and ready to take on your work. But if you still feel like you need another break or time to recoup, then it was perhaps not the best break for you.
If the use of leisure time is confined to looking at TV for a few extra hours every day, we will deteriorate as a people.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
What Does Leisure Mean?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines leisure as “freedom provided by the cessation of activities, especially time free from work or duties.” Leisure can mean fun activities or doing nothing productive.
This definition necessitates that we define “work” for ourselves. For example, do we define work as office work, taking care of kids, volunteering activities, or hobbies? It is important to remember that even if we enjoy our work, we may still need to take frequent breaks.
Examples of Leisure Time
Different people have different ways of spending their time in leisure.
Fun activities like traveling, hiking, partying, kayaking, gardening.
Hobbies like reading, baking, writing, making music, listening to music, painting.
Spending time with family and friends over meals or celebratory events.
Even volunteering activities can be a form of leisure.
Doing absolutely nothing and simply being present in the moment.
Daily exercise to build your stamina and flexibility.
How Leisure Affects You
1. Overall Health
When you engage in physical activities and get moving for leisure, you will gain benefits of exercise such as the reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, decreased blood pressure and cholesterol, and better weight management.
In addition, leisure activities can improve your sleep quality. This means that you can enjoy the perks of a quality night of sleep, like a lower risk of stroke, diabetes, obesity, and heart attack.
2. Surgery Outcomes
When you’re in surgery recovery, your immunity needs to be in top form. Leisure time can improve immunity. So, engaging in a few nontaxing leisure activities during the postoperative period can enable you to recover faster.
3. Mental Health
If you choose the right type of leisure activity for you, you will experience calmness and a positive mood, leading to better stress management. In addition, research shows that leisure activity can help reduce depressive symptoms.
Given the positive impact of leisure on health, immunity, and mental health, it is fair to expect leisure to impact longevity positively. Research confirms that “people who engaged in leisure-time physical activity had life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years.”
5. Life Satisfaction
Adequate leisure time results in improved self-esteem, better flexibility, and enhanced memory. Leisure time spent with loved ones can also strengthen relationships. This means that those who take time for leisure will be more satisfied with life.
Although we sometimes feel like we can’t afford to take leisure time, it is critical to our well-being and overall life satisfaction. If you can’t seem to take time off, you may consider working with a mental health professional to explore your underlying beliefs about leisure.