Leisure activities can do wonders for you, even if you don't exert yourself. They ease stress, hone your focus, and sharpen your mind. And they let you have a lot of fun.

Here are five hobbies that can help you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

1. Hiking

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, consider joining a hiking club. Not only will you get some cardio in; you’ll also meet others who share your love of nature. Hiking improves your physical stamina and conditions your core muscles. Plus, it helps ease stress. If you live a big city, try urban hiking. And check out the American Hiking Society to connect with others and learn about hiking and trail resources in your town.

2. Volunteering

One of the most rewarding hobbies out there, volunteering also helps you engage with your community. "A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health," the Harvard Health Blog reports, "including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan." Homeless shelters, churches, public schools, nonprofit social service organizations, hospitals, food banks, animal rescue shelters, retirement facilities — they’re all looking for civic-minded folks like you. And you’ll meet great new people.

3. Cooking

Learning how to cook new foods not only teaches you how to eat healthy; it also connects you with others. You can enroll in a cooking class that sounds interesting, such as Ethiopian or French cooking. If you’re not one for classes, then you can purchase a healthy cookbook that inspires you and prepare a new recipe once or twice a week. Plus, your friends and family will thank you for all the delicious, new, and exotic meals.

4. Learning a new language

Fun and challenging, learning a new language also introduces you cultural aspects of countries that speak that language. What's more, the Atlantic reports that "people who learn a second language, even in adulthood, can better avoid cognitive decline in old age." Try enrolling in a language course at your local community college or check out language learning software. Either way, you’ll impress everyone you know, and you may even feel the urge to travel overseas.

5. Attending farmers markets

Farmers markets aren’t just for shopping; they offer you opportunity to meet the farmers who grow your food and to learn about responsible organic growing practices. This hobby can be a part of your grocery shopping routine, allowing you to indulge in fresh baked goods, produce samples, and flowers. Plus going to farmers markets connects you to others in your community.Free Consultations

How hobbies pay off

Sometimes work and life gets in the way of having a hobby. This is too bad, because your physical and mental well-being really stand to benefit. Specifically:

Hobbies help you take a break

They’re fun and purposeful. You’ll feel productive as whatever stress you feel melts away.

Hobbies create excitement and joy

Many people find that hobbies help you feel excited and passionate because you’re engaging in an activity you truly enjoy and can connect with. "When people do things that make them feel good, like a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life," the New York Times reports. "Activities you enjoy also stimulate the brain’s septal zone — its “feel good” area — and that makes you feel happy."

Hobbies can provide a good challenge

Hobbies, such as learning how to fly, can challenge you both mentally and physically in unexpected ways. These new challenges can open your mind and change your perspective on life.

Hobbies can help you make new friends

"While some hobbies are solitary endeavors," notes Psychology Today, "many get us out in our communities, meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t, sharing our passions, and forming new bonds." If you engage in hobbies such as hiking, you can easily meet new people with the same interests through hiking groups. The same is true about taking classes to pursue your interests.

Hobbies are great for blowing off some steam

Hobbies are a great outlet for releasing stress, since you’re giving your mind something else to focus on rather than work.

Hobbies can offer physical health benefits

Enjoyable activities can help lower your blood pressure and even help you burn calories, depending on the hobby.

Get on your hobby horse

With all these great benefits, why wait any longer to take up a new hobby? By embarking on a passion project, you'll find that your health and mood will soar to new heights.

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