It’s often the case that we think to live longer we must cut out all the fun stuff like biscuits, alcohol and takeaways in favour of the hard stuff: exercise, low-cholesterol food and sleep.

And while it’s wise to eat healthily and quit smoking to give you a chance of a longer innings, you don’t have to miss out on everything life has to offer.

In fact, one of the best ways to live longer is to take up a hobby you enjoy.

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Here are some that will really boost your quality – and potentially length – of life:

1. Reading

Getting stuck into a book can reduce your stress levels by 69% - helping to ward off heart attacks - bumps up your vocabulary, keeps your brain active with problem solving, enhances concentration and even makes it easier to get to sleep. Also, in some schools of thought, you can live hundreds more lives vicariously through the characters you read about.

2. Playing chess

Your brain will thank you for taking up chess. After all, it’s a mental game which boosts cognitive function, strategic thinking, memory and problem solving. Handily doesn’t put any extra pressure on your joints either.

3. Gardening

Getting outside – whether you have a balcony, a back garden or a rambling allotment – and growing your own will not only keep you looking forward to the next harvest, but reduces stress, improves diet, counts as exercise and has been shown to help slow the onset of dementia.

It helps you top up on vitamin C too, and working directly with the earth can also bolster a positive connection with the world around you – all good for your mental wellbeing.

4. Walking the dog

Walking the dog also gets you out and about. Walking is particularly beneficial exercise as you age, because it’s easy on the joints but still gets the heart, lungs and muscles working.

Having a creature to care for – and one that cares back – has also been found to improve mental wellbeing, hence the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in hospitals and nursing homes.

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5. Swimming

Swimming is low impact but works every muscle in the body; it also lowers stress, gives you time and space to think and improves sleep. You can also build up your stamina and strength at a noticeable pace, making it easy to set targets and keep on achieving them.

6. Team sports

Even better, join a team – be it netball, football, cricket or any other sports you might be interested in. Staying active and social are key to living a long, happy and fulfilled life. Loneliness can be incredibly debilitating and has been found to be damaging to your long-term health. It’s been suggested that isolation is a bigger killer than obesity, and team sports combat both.

7. Cooking

Numerous studies have shown that if you cook your own food from scratch, it’s much more likely to be healthy and nutritious than if you plump for takeouts and microwave ready meals. It’s also cheaper, requires dexterity and boosts self esteem, plus, if you’re good at it, you’ll end up spending more time with friends and family, which boosts overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Saying that, the odd takeaway won’t kill you either – especially if you want to the restaurant.

8. Playing an instrument

Raise your IQ and brain function instantly by taking up an instrument – it’s never too late to learn. It’ll help hone your fine motor skills to boot – and will impress your friends. Once you feel confident you could even sign up to an orchestra which will tick the “staying social” box too.

9. Dancing

Dancing, even just around your kitchen, releases endorphins, cuts stress, improves flexibility and has even been shown to make you smarter as it pushes you to keep getting better, simultaneously boosting cognitive acuity. Also, it’s fun!

Photo credit: NPWGifts

What’s your hobby? Do you think it is adding years to your life? Tell us in the Comments section below.