At times, making healthy choices can seem like an absolute chore. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, adding more playful activities to your life will lengthen it by improving your mental, physical, and social health. Spending quality “fun” time with friends and family can and should be a part of your daily routine. Read on for 10+ ways to sneak in more smiles and active miles.
10+ Tricks to Play Your Way to a Longer Life
1. Make your hangouts with friends into active ones
Hanging out and catching up with someone you care about doesn’t have to occur over food or drink. It can happen on a walk or jog, during a stretch or yoga session, and on the golf course or basketball court.
2. Take your morning beverage outside
Do you usually take your time with your morning coffee or tea? Try turning your morning sit and sip into a stroll and sip. Getting up and moving in the morning has a host of benefits, and bringing the movement outside or sharing it with a loved one is even better. Exercising outdoors multiplies exercise’s positive effects on heart health and other body systems.
3. Play with a pet
Furry friends make being active and having fun a walk in the park. Petting or playing with a dog or cat leads to decreased stress in kids, college students, and beyond. One study found that even petting animals that aren’t particularly soft or furry (like turtles) was relaxing for most people, animal lover or not. You don’t even have to own a pet to be able to harness these benefits! Is there a dog in your neighborhood who needs a walk or a game of fetch?
4. Join a sports league
There’s no reason for sports to be relegated to pre-college and college years. Sure, contact football might not be the best idea, but there are plenty of other lower impact sports people of all ages can play. Playing team sports can bolster your physical, mental, social, and emotional health. Check out sports leagues in your area, and you might be pleasantly surprised at communities you can be a part of. Don’t see anything you want to play? Start one of your own.
5. Try out some technology
From apps to Apple watches, new technologies can help “gamify” being active. Applications like Zombies, Run! add a storyline to your sweat. Some gyms have taken the story idea to the next level by employing virtual reality headsets.
6. Play board games
While these don’t involve physical activity or the outdoors, playing them with friends and family will still create more fun time together. For more of a mental challenge, strategy games like chess are encouraged.
7. Play yard games, too
Yard games, while they may not involve intense physical activity, still include time outside and some movement. Plus, they’re great activities to chat and laugh around.
8. Plan a picnic (on workdays or weekends!)
Planning a picnic will get you out in the park, so while you’re there you might as well socialize, toss a frisbee, and wander around. Even if you’ve only got an hour during your lunch break, you can try taking lunch outside for a change.
Whether it’s in an exercise class like Zumba, in your living room, or in a live music venue, dancing is a great way to maintain your mental and physical health. Dancing makes an excellent hobby for elderly people too, because it can be easily customized to any activity level.
10. Try crosswords, Sudokus, and other puzzles
While these three games can be done individually, they can also be done socially. On a crossword, for example, you can treat it as a competition by awarding a point to each person who gets a word.
If you do the same kinds of puzzles too frequently though, they seem to lose their brain-boosting effects. As a result, continually switch up the puzzles you do to keep your brain active and flexible.
11. Go geocaching
What is geocaching? According to geocaching.com, geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices (like phones). Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. It’s free, and relies primarily on National Parks though you can also find geocaches almost anywhere.