Slowing it down: The Top 4 Zen Hobbies for Active Adults

Senior woman knitting for hobby

In 2023, the persistent challenges of our ever-changing world continue to cast a shadow of stress over our lives. The complexities of modern existence, from ongoing global uncertainties to personal and professional demands, have left individuals of all ages seeking solace and release. However, for active adults over the age of 55, the significance of stress reduction takes on a particularly vital role in preserving their holistic well-being.

Relaxation is a cornerstone of good health, and its importance cannot be overstated, especially for the senior demographic. The burden of accumulated life experiences, age-related health concerns, and the desire for a fulfilling and vibrant life during retirement years necessitate effective stress management strategies. Indeed, stress has a profound impact on various systems within the body, making it a significant contributor to age-related health conditions.

One powerful avenue toward stress reduction is through the pursuit of hobbies. Hobbies serve as therapeutic outlets that offer emotional respite, mental rejuvenation, and often, physical activity. For active adults, these pastimes can prove to be not only enjoyable but also integral to maintaining a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. In this context, we explore the role of hobbies as a potential tool for alleviating stress and enhancing the overall well-being of the demographic, providing insights and suggestions for a more holistic wellness journey.

The Science Behind Relaxing and The Top Result

A study from the researchers at focused on relaxation and heart rate ultimately sought to identify the most effective hobbies for reducing stress by examining their impact on heart rate. The study involved 2,379 participants who engaged in 20 common stress-relief activities, including gardening, cooking, hiking, and tai chi. To measure their effectiveness, 357 participants were equipped with Fitbit activity trackers with heart rate monitors, allowing researchers to track changes in heart rate during these activities.

Stress and a rapid heartbeat are intimately connected. When the body perceives stress, it activates the "fight-or-flight" response, releasing adrenaline and increasing cortisol levels. This physiological reaction leads to a faster heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and a suppression of digestive processes. These changes, though adaptive in short-term stress responses, can have adverse effects when prolonged, contributing to various health issues.

The relationship between clinical anxiety and heart disease is well-established. While stress is a reaction to external pressures or threats, anxiety often involves excessive worrying without an apparent stressor. Prolonged anxiety has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, making it essential to address anxiety as part of stress management strategies. The study on heart rate reduction through hobbies underscores the importance of relaxation activities in mitigating these health risks.

Knitting showed itself as one of the best ways to unwind, but its adoption ultimately depends on individual preferences. Knitting was found to be particularly effective in lowering heart rates, reducing them by nearly 19 percent on average in the study.

However, personal preference plays a substantial role in choosing a relaxation hobby. Activities such as fishing, which ranked second for relaxation, or calligraphy (tied for third place with blogging) may suit some individuals better. The ideal hobby for relaxation should align with one's interests, bringing joy and tranquility.

3 Relaxing Alternatives for Active Adults

1) Fishing

Fishing has long been hailed as a relaxing pastime, and numerous studies have supported this notion. Engaging in fishing activities, whether it's casting a line in a serene pond or embarking on a deep-sea adventure, has shown to have substantial relaxation benefits. Research indicates that fishing slows heart rates, which is a key indicator of reduced stress. While it may not achieve the same level of heart rate reduction as knitting, it still offers a significant decrease in stress-related physiological responses.

A study conducted by experts in leisure and recreation sciences found that fishing led to a heart rate reduction of approximately 10 percent on average. This is notably lower than the heart rate reduction observed in knitting, but it still suggests that fishing is a valuable and calming hobby for those seeking to alleviate stress.

Fishing's relaxation benefits extend beyond heart rate reduction. One of the compelling aspects of fishing is the opportunity it provides to connect with nature. Spending time outdoors, whether by a tranquil lake, river, or pond, can be truly meditative though you should still take some precautions. The soothing sounds of flowing water, the rustle of leaves, and the fresh air have the power to elevate one's mood and boost overall well-being.

Nature therapy, or ecotherapy, has gained recognition for its healing potential. A review of research on the benefits of nature in 2011 highlighted the profound impact of natural settings on stress reduction. Simply being in nature, with its sights and sounds, has the capacity to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Fishing combines this connection to nature with a sense of purpose, making it an ideal choice for those seeking stress relief and a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

2) Journaling/Blogging

Journaling has long been recognized as a therapeutic activity that can help individuals process their thoughts and emotions. It provides an outlet for self-expression, self-reflection, and emotional release. Many people turn to journaling during times of stress or personal challenges. It offers a structured means of articulating feelings, experiences, and insights, which can be incredibly cathartic.

Blogging, essentially an online form of journaling, extends the benefits of this therapeutic activity into the digital realm. Writing a blog allows individuals to share their thoughts, experiences, and insights with a broader audience. While this may not seem relaxing in the traditional sense, it offers an avenue for creative expression and self-discovery, which can be inherently calming.

The study on heart rate reduction through hobbies found that blogging can decrease resting heart rates by an average of 7.5 percent. This suggests that while it may not achieve the same level of relaxation as activities like knitting or fishing, it still contributes to reduced stress levels. Moreover, the act of blogging can be a source of accomplishment and connection, offering a sense of purpose and community engagement.

3) Painting

Painting, as a creative and artistic pursuit, has been recognized for its therapeutic qualities. The study on heart rate reduction through hobbies revealed that painting can lower heart rates by approximately 3.75 percent on average. While this may not match the heart rate reduction achieved by knitting, it still signifies a notable decrease in physiological stress responses.

Art therapy, a field that employs artistic activities to improve mental and emotional well-being, has consistently demonstrated the stress-relieving benefits of creative expression. In a 2018 research review, over 80 percent of the trials indicated that art therapy provided stress relief for participants. The act of creating art, whether through painting, drawing, or other forms of artistic expression, has the potential to soothe and calm the mind.

It's important to note that painting's relaxation benefits extend to other artistic pursuits as well. The rise of adult coloring books, for example, has become a popular way for individuals to engage in artistic activities that promote relaxation. The act of coloring intricate designs allows for a meditative focus on the task at hand, providing an escape from everyday worries and stressors.

The Circulatory System and Its Vulnerability to Stress

The circulatory system, comprising the heart, blood vessels, and blood, plays a pivotal role in maintaining our overall health. However, this vital system is particularly vulnerable to the deleterious effects of stress. When we experience stress, our body activates the "fight-or-flight" response, releasing adrenaline and increasing cortisol levels. This physiological reaction leads to an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and reduced digestive function. The cumulative impact of chronic stress can strain the circulatory system, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

Given the profound impact of stress on the circulatory system, it becomes imperative to have effective mechanisms for stress release. Stress can be likened to pressure building within a container. Without a release valve, this pressure can have detrimental consequences. Engaging in relaxation activities, like hobbies, serves as this crucial release valve. It allows the body and mind to shed the accumulated tension and restore equilibrium. For seniors, who may be more susceptible to stress due to age-related concerns, finding reliable release valves is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being.

The Health Conditions Associated with Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can lead to a host of health conditions that have a profound impact on an individual's quality of life. These conditions include high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems such as stomach ulcers, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. For active adults who may already be managing age-related health concerns, the compounding effect of chronic stress can exacerbate these conditions, making it paramount to find effective stress relief methods.

Holistic Solutions for Active Adults

Active adults, who often have more time for leisure and self-care, must prioritize finding effective ways to unwind. The circulatory system's susceptibility to stress, combined with the potential for age-related health issues, underscores the urgency of implementing regular relaxation practices. This might include hobbies that align with personal interests and lifestyles.

When selecting a relaxation hobby, personal preference plays a critical role. What works wonders for one individual may not be as effective for another. The key is to choose an activity that resonates with one's passions and inclinations, ensuring that it will be consistently enjoyable and engaging. Whether it's knitting, fishing, blogging, painting, or any other relaxing pastime, the hobby must be a source of joy and comfort.

Long-term stress relief hinges on the ability to genuinely enjoy the chosen hobby. When an individual takes pleasure in their relaxation activities, they are more likely to make them a consistent part of their lifestyle. The act of engaging in these activities should not feel like a chore but rather a cherished break from the pressures of daily life. Over time, the cumulative effect of enjoying these hobbies will lead to reduced stress, improved health, and a more balanced and fulfilling life, particularly for those over 55.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.