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How a man spends his free time can go a long way toward improving his quality of life and overall health. Family- and work-related stress might be unavoidable, but a healthy hobby can make it easier for men to cope with that stress. But even if you aren't stressed out, the following healthy hobbies can improve your quality of life and help you make the most of your free time.
* Dust off that old guitar. Playing an instrument, whether it's the guitar, the piano, the drums, etc., is a great way to relax and, depending on when you started playing, may have a significant and positive impact on your mental health in the years to come. A study published in the July 2012 issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that playing a musical instrument may reduce the effects of mental decline associated with aging. Researchers behind the study based their findings on adults who learned to play music in childhood, so men who learned to play their guitar or tickle the ivories as a child might benefit more than those who learned to play as an adult. But even grown men with no previous musical experience can benefit from playing during their free time.
* Hit the dance floor. Perhaps thanks to the popularity of the hit television show "Dancing With the Stars," which has seen professional football players like Emmitt Smith, Donald Driver and Hines Ward excel on the dance floor, more and more men are taking up dance, which can improve cardiovascular health and help men shed a few extra pounds. Dancing is also a great way to build muscle and improve bone health. What's more, few women can resist a man who isn't afraid to show his stuff on the dance floor.
* Escape into a good book. Reading is a great way to keep abreast of what's going on in the world, and reading also provides several health benefits. Research has shown that activities like reading can improve memory function, delaying or even preventing age-related memory loss. Reading is also a great way to cope with stress, providing a welcome respite from the daily grind that allows you to peacefully unwind at the end of the day.
* Get your hands dirty in the garden. Gardening is another great way to relieve stress while also getting some time in the fresh air. A 2011 study from researchers based in the Netherlands found that gardening is more effective at improving mood than reading. That study examined two groups of people who were instructed to read or garden for 30 minutes. When the half hour was up, the participants who gardened reported being in a better mood than those who read, and the gardening group also had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Additional studies have also linked gardening to reducing the symptoms associated with depression.