As a result of COVID-19, many communities have been ordered to social distance and stay home. For patients with chronic illnesses, the risks are even higher, meaning that these individuals are advised to be extra cautious and avoid leaving their homes. With all of this extra time at home, now would be a great time to pick up on some hobbies or start a new activity!

Hobbies are about what you want to do. They’re what you love, what sparks your curiosity and what excites you. But that’s not all they can do for you. Research shows that partaking regularly in hobbies can lower your blood pressure, cortisol levels and body mass index. They’re also associated with improved mental health and better-managed depression and anxiety, especially during times when leaving the house has become restricted.

Picking up an active hobby, even if the exercise involved is light and limited, can build your muscular strength over time. For example, scientists have found that in those with lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, light exercise improves respiratory function, even when scarring or inflammation compromises your lungs and airways.

Here are several hobby ideas that are perfect for individuals with chronic illnesses during times of social distancing and  quarantine.

Quilting

Crafting requires both creativity and analytical problem-solving. That means that it puts both the left and the right sides of the brain to work, improving communication between the two hemispheres. We like quilting because it is accessible for beginners. Quilting is experiencing a renaissance both in the U.S. and across the globe: local quilt guilds with diverse member demographics can be found in most towns and cities.

Other options for those who want to take up traditional crafts include knitting, crocheting, mosaics, weaving, pottery, embroidery, calligraphy, felting and macramé.

Tai Chi from home

Hailing from China, this ancient martial art is shown to lower stress, increase flexibility and range of motion and improve balance. Studying tai chi offers followers a front-row seat to learning and appreciating a rich culture and the defensive arts developed and kept alive by it’s people. Because it’s gentle on the body and can be self-paced, tai chi is an appropriate choice for patients struggling with decreased muscle strength, lung function or joint pain.

Gardening

Want to get back to nature? Plop down in a garden patch and get digging, friend. The great thing about gardening is that there’s always something to do, no matter the season. Whether you’re gardening indoors or out, scientists report that it’s a wonderful way to work out some of the hallmark mental health symptoms of chronic illness: stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety, while also getting some fresh air!

Blogging

The death of blogs has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, as users become more critical of popular social media platforms, the blog is looking ripe for resurgence, especially during a time where many older adults are advised to remain home. Why not start your own blog? You can write about your life, your interests, your experiences and even your illness. You could share recipes or photographs. You could even critique movies or television shows. Many amateur bloggers have gotten a foothold on rating sites like Rotten Tomatoes.

Playing tabletop games

As many people are spending more time at home, games are a great choice for staying entertained indoors. We get it – that’s why we love a tabletop game. Cards, Monopoly, Dungeons & Dragons, Mahjong, Trivial Pursuit, Risk, puzzles, Parcheesi – there are all sorts of options for all sorts of players. You can play by yourself or with those in your household. It’s your roll – er, your choice.

Astronomy

For many, chronic illness can mean difficult mornings and afternoons. Thanks to symptoms like stiffness, breathlessness and discomfort after waking, it’s easier for people with chronic diseases to be active at night rather than during the day. That makes activities like astronomy an appropriate pick. There are numerous smartphone apps that can help you get started, even without a telescope.

Woodworking

Put your free time to work with a handcraft hobby that you can admire at the end of the day. Whether you want to whittle or whip out a saw, woodworking is a soothing hobby that will help you focus on what’s occupying your fingers. Make sure to wear a mask or a bandana over your nose and mouth, as wood dust can compromise your respiratory health.

Investing

You don’t need to be sitting on a pot of gold to start playing the market. In fact, you don’t need to have cash in the bank at all. There are loads of desktop games and smartphone apps that use real-world stock data to simulate investment trading without putting any of your actual money at risk. While it’s an independent hobby, it’s also a fun activity to take up virtually within a group of family members or friends.

Upcycling

Want to save the world? Try turning pieces of everyday trash into DIY treasures. There are more ways to keep garbage out of landfills than by taking a zero-waste challenge. (And honestly, for those with chronic illnesses, no-waste is near impossible.) Instead, upcycle old materials – wood, plastic, metal, etc. into works of art, home décor and furniture. This is another path toward making the world a greener place.

Playing an instrument

If you had “garage band” dreams when you were younger, now’s your big chance. The bonus: You don’t have to worry about getting peer-pressured into percussion when you really have your sights set on the saxophone. Feeling more independent? Go ahead and pick up the piccolo, piano or, heck, even the glockenspiel solo.

Writing letters

Don’t get us wrong, we’re thankful for modern inventions like medicine and the World Wide Web, but we still get a hankering for the quaintness of yesteryear. Take to the letter. Love letters, thank you notes, shared worries and joys? We’d much rather find those in our mailbox than a towering pile of bills. Go old-school and start leading by example. All you need is a packet of stamps, a piece of paper and a pen. Oh, and an address that doesn’t include an @ sign. You remember those, right?

Video games

Who said kids get to have all the fun? While they’re an excellent way to bond with younger family members in the house, they’re great for adult-only enjoyment, too. Video games aren’t all shoot-’em-ups and simulations, either – although if that’s your thing, grab a controller and enjoy a round. You can find all sorts of different games, from cinematic tie-ins to story-centric role-playing to mysteries and more.  Be on the lookout for independent game designers and give older platforms a try, too.

Beekeeping

The world needs more pollinators and you need a hobby. Why not combine the two? Keeping a hive requires dedication, but bees aren’t terribly high maintenance and they come with a sugary-sweet bonus you can look forward to. There are many types of hives that are suitable for beginners with a fondness for insects and honey. All you need to get started is a rooftop or a bit of land. Even a tenth of an acre will do!

Reading

Been holding off on reading books from your in-home collection? Now would be the time to dust them off! Reading keeps your mind engaged and is a great way to enjoy a great story or learn something new. Have a child in the house? Turn reading time into a bonding experience. Have Internet access and video capabilities? You could even start a virtual book club with friends. Open up that classic title, kick your feet up, and enjoy!

Cooking

Want a way to keep your mind engaged, spend time with those you are quarantined with, and have a delicious outcome to enjoy? Cooking is a great activity for those who are looking to (literally) spice up their diets and experiment in the kitchen. With many grocery stores and websites such as Amazon offering grocery delivery services, becoming the chef that you have always wanted to be has never been more convenient. Let’s get cooking!

Whatever hobby you pick, it’s important to take your symptoms and limitations into consideration along with your personal preferences. If you have trouble finding something you love, or you find an activity you enjoy but find that your symptoms get in the way, check in with the online community and get connected. They might be able to point you toward another option that you’ll like just as much. Hello new hobby!

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