6 Hobbies that Make Us Smarter

When is the last time someone asked you about your hobbies at a job interview? You may not realize it, but our favored pastimes go far beyond relaxing forms of entertainment. The hobbies we gravitate towards can actually impact our intelligence, and, according to science, creates new neural pathways that make our brains work faster and better.

Here are six pastimes that give us “smarty pants” status…

1. Gaming

Yes, that’s right, playing video games (despite their reputation for turning kids into zombies) actually make us smarter…bang, crash, massive explosion!

Studies from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in Singapore link video gaming with better memory (both memory processing and recall), as well as improved motor performance (fine motor skills), strategic planning, and enhanced spatial navigation.

Play Video Games

2. Be a Book Worm

When I was a kid, my Dad accused me of “always having my nose stuck in a book”. However, according to research published in the Wall Street Journal, reading can help improve an impressive triad of intelligence–emotional intellect, crystallised intellect, and fluid intelligence.

Scientists explain that these 3 types of intelligence inspired by reading translate to all types of brain power, such as better self esteem, better empathy to others’ feelings, improved problem solving and pattern detection, better life management, and less overall stress.

Reading at Night

3. Exercise

Most of us exercise for the physical benefits, such as better strength, endurance, improved cardiovascular health, or weight maintenance. However, did you know that lacing up your sneakers and pounding feet to pavement can actually enhance your smarts?

Studies from the National Institutes of Health show that sweating it out on a run, cycle, or hike can actually improve our ability to recognize objects from memory, thanks to activity that floods our cells with BDNF, a protein that boosts memory.


4. Meditation

A 2015 research study from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), notes what we all suspected, meditation helps achieve higher enlightenment and intellect!

The researchers monitored a group of practicing mediators, scanning their brain with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI’s). They discovered that meditating individuals boasted bigger with significantly more gray matter and thicker tissue in the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for control and attention) compared to their non-meditating counterparts.


5. Picking Up Another Language

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, Germany, France, China, India, or another fascinating place on this big blue sphere we call earth, learning the language would definitely come in handy. However, picking up some foreign language skills can also improve your smarts.

Studies from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, D.C., found that individuals who boast billingual skills have better control of brain function. For instance, they can plan, problem-solve, manage, and switch tasks with better attention and focus than those of us who only know one language.

Travel - Girls

6. Playing an Instrument

Do you tinkle on a piano, saw away on a fiddle, pound your heart out on drums, or strum a perfect tune via your ukulele? Well, 2014 research from Boston Children’s Hospital notes that children who play a musical instrument have better thought processing and verbal fluency skills.

Further research from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, also notes that playing music strengthens the “corpus callosum,” the link between the creative and analytic hemispheres in the brain. And, the younger you learn, the better. So encourage your own kids to pick up their favored music maker early for better academic achievement later in life.

sing guitar


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.