Not All Hobbies are Created Equal

800px-Gee's_Bend_quilting_beeAs people get older, one of their biggest concerns is the loss of memory, of not being able to remember things. Most people know that keeping active is important, but not all activities are created equal (are the same; have the same results).

In a recent study about memory, groups of older adults learned new skills, either 1) quilting, a type of sewing activity where different pieces of fabric are sewn together to make a thick blanket called a quilt–see photo); or 2) digital photography, taking photos with a digital (electronic; using a small computer) camera.

The participants took memory tests before and after they learned these new skills, and their results were compared to other groups who had participated in enjoyable social or leisure (free time) activities, such as watching movies, listening to music, and playing easy games, but that did not involve learning new skills.

After three months of doing these activities for over 15 hours a week, the group that learned digital photography made the most improvement in the memory tests, perhaps because it was the more difficult of the new skills. It not only involved learning to use a digital camera, but also involved learning the photography software Photoshop and, for some, using a computer, since some of the participants had never used a computer before.

The psychologists (researchers studying the mind) who conducted the study believe that learning new skills helps to strengthen the connections in the brain. Learning new skills is better, they believe, than the games and computer programs marketed (sold) to older adults these days that tout (say is a benefit) improvement in memory.  They say that those commercial (sold to customers) games only improve short-term (recent) memory to a small degree (a little bit), but learning new skills — such as learning a new hobby — helps to strengthen connections in larger portions (areas; sections) of the brain.

In the past 30 years or so, there have been many media (news) reports about the benefits of keeping active as we get older. Physical exercise is important and so, it seems, is exercising the mind. Picking activities that challenge (present problems and difficulties to solve) the mind garners (gets) the greatest benefits.

If you’re an older adult, do you have hobbies that challenge your mind? If you’re younger, what new skills would you like to learn when you retire and have more time?

– Lucy

Photo Credit:  Gee’s Bend quilting bee from Wikipedia

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14 Responses to Not All Hobbies are Created Equal

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone,

    That is very interesting Lucy. I am always interested when there is a piece/documentary/article on how our brain works.

    What I have been trying to do for a few years now, it is to unlearn or dump everything I have been thought and pushed into my mind since I was younger.

    In order to do achieve that, it is of help living is solitude. That because without even noticing it, we influence one another in behavior and way of thinking.

    So far, the result of that is that I have become an atheist and a vegetarian.

    This is the skill I am developing right now, looking at things differently and from many perspectives and possibly without judging. That’s the hardest part.

    I often find myself judging someone or something without even knowing that. That is because I have lost control of my thoughts.
    But that’s is normal. It probably is how our mind works. I believe that happens to everyone.

    I would like to develop the skill of controlling the mind of people and make them do what I want. That is fun!

    Thank you Lucy, fascinating topic.

  2. Marcos says:

    Hello Lucy and everyone

    Learn English is my hobby and also challenge my mind.

    Thank you for help me

  3. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Hello my fellows. I’m here to say that it is important to keep your mind busy with something that makes you to think, like me who is 72 and keep my mind busy with many things like studies, drawings, geometry, math, gardening and a wife. Yes, a wife is a great thing to keep you busy because they want the things you can’t afford, but they don’t care about it. They want and you must make your best to fulfill them. To become older is good under some sights but is harmful under another. I don’t want to go up to 100. The body loses its skills of doing a lot of things. The muscles become weaker, the taste goes down, the hearings too, the sex … no use to say.

  4. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Hello Dan! Do you unsderstand me? I hope so. Have a nice day.

  5. Dent says:

    Hello everyone
    I’m very glad to join to your friendly group again. I hope we have great time here together especially with my honest and dear grandfather ,Emiliano.
    I’m twenty years old and my hobbies at these hot days are: listening to ESL pod , listening to music , studying about countries culture and reading simple english stories because this improve my english with ESL faster.
    Have a nice day

  6. Parviz says:

    Hi Lucy,
    Very interesting topic with good scientific support.
    Good hubby, I should say.
    Any way.
    Not only it has been scientifically proved that getting involved in learning new skills makes your brain stronger, but also in daily
    life we can observe people who keep learning have better health and mind circumstances.
    One of my teachers, for example, is in his eighties, but he has energy like is thirty.
    If you once ask him for the reason, he would say “keep learning’.
    Strangely enough he is not a university professor, nor he has been in high school for more than 3 months.
    Somehow, he started learning about the mind and brain, alongside being a successful businessman.
    Then he started teaching what he new, and continued learning at the same time.
    From a neuroscience prospective, our brain never stops developing, as long as we give it work.
    The more we learn, the more it grows throw making new connections.
    Wisdom come with age comes true for people who never stop experiencing new things, and certainly not for idles.
    If you feel like your head is getting a little bit heavier, after you have spent two hours here reading posts.
    Now You know why. because you are learning a new skill.
    Thank you,

  7. Parviz says:

    Hi again,
    The topic inspired me to find more information about the brain.
    When browsing the internet, I stumbled on some interesting materials worth reading.
    I just leave the replica to your benefit:


    Memory and learning are so closely connected that people often confuse them with each other. But the specialists who study them consider them two distinct phenomena.
    These specialists define learning as a process that will modify a subsequent behavior.
    Memory, on the other hand, is the ability to remember past experiences.

    You learn a new language by studying it, but you then speak it by using your memory to retrieve the words that you have learned.

    Memory is essential to all learning, because it lets you store and retrieve the information that you learn. Memory is basically nothing more than the record left by a learning process.

    Thus, memory depends on learning. But learning also depends on memory, because the knowledge stored in your memory provides the framework to which you link new knowledge, by association. And the more extensive your framework of existing knowledge, the more easily you can link new knowledge to it.

    Have fun,

  8. Dan says:

    Hey guys,

    I recently saw an incredible TED talk regarding the brain. A must see. To anyone interested look for: Andres Lozano: Parkinson’s, depression and the switch that might turn them off.

    I am not aware if this as scientific basis, but I am convinced that caring for a pet is very very good for our brain and body. That because if you have a dog, you have to walk it every day.

    Something important as well, is not loosing contact with nature.

    Said that, I think that when I get older I am going to an animal shelter and get a dog. We are going to go into the woods every day.
    I would do that right now, but I already share the place with three cats and I do not want to leave the dog alone when I am working all day.

    I believe that is great for our brain, and why not! even the heart would benefit from that.

    Thank you, reading all of you.

  9. Parviz says:

    Hi again,
    I am a little bit skeptical of the way I used “is not” and “nor” in the following sentence.
    Strangely enough he is not a university professor, nor he has been in high school for more than 3 months.
    Please,I can use some help.
    Thank you,

  10. Dan says:

    Hey Parviz,

    Even though I get what you are saying in the sentence, I am not sure it is correct grammatically.

    I usually see “nor” paired with “Neither”.

    I am not an expert though.

    I would have probably said : Strangely enough he is not a university professor, and he dropped out of high school just after three months.

    Bye and thanks

  11. Genji says:

    I’m a 68 years old ESL student.
    I wonder I could prevent the loss of memory.
    If “possible”…”Getting two birds with one stone”.

  12. Parviz says:

    Thank you Dan,
    And please join me in welcoming Genji to the esl podcast blog.


  13. emiliano says:

    Dear Dent, thank you so much
    I would like very much to have a grandson like you, be sure about that.

    I have been just a little out from the Blog, as I have been in the beautiful country of Germany.
    It is a very tired trip seeing so much cities like Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Reggensburg, and
    finally Munich.

    Every one of the cities iare differents, Berlin could be the largest city of Europe, it has 900 km2
    and has only two and a half millions of people living in the city. The guide told us that inside
    the city could be nine times the city of Paris, what is really incredible.
    The two sites of Berlin, the East and the West, are absolutely different. Our hotel was in the East
    side, more cheap, and it was necessary half and our to be in the West centre of Berlin.

    I need more time to be calm and assimilate all the different things I have seen, but what I could
    say it is Germany could be the first country in Europe now.
    The diferences between Germany and Spain are so big that it is difficult to explain them.

    Just a date, the unployed people in Baviera it is 2.5 per cent, the lowest in all Europe, but in
    Spain it is 25 per cent. Some regions of Spain it is 30 per cent or even more.

    History in Germany it is so heavy that it is necessary some time and more visits to assimilate
    so much events along centuries.

    Again, thank you so much Dent, you are really very kind with the old emiliano.

    Thanks to every one of you dear friends of the Blog.


  14. Chicha says:

    I think I will take Spanish and German lessons to keep myself active when I get older.
    Learning something new can be full of fun!

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