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Boredom busters that are healthy, too

There’s sweeping the steps, and then there’s sweeping the steps.

What does it take to sweep the steps? Nothing more than a little imagination and a little music.

What happens when you add some fun to ordinary activities? That’s the best part! Your health improves, your mood brightens, you actually enjoy what used to be a boring chore.

The idea that everyday routines can be transformed into healthy activities gained credence in 1996 when the American Heart Association issued its findings on heart disease in America. The AHA said doing simple things—walking, gardening, yard work and housework—lowers the risk of numerous physical and emotional problems, as long as it adds up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most days.

Doing chores and getting healthier at the same time is one way to bust boredom. Keeping your mind sharp is another. Getting out of the house more may be the ticket. The fact is, you can do plenty of beneficial activities to strengthen your body and soothe your inner self. Things like:

  • Laughing. Chuckles, giggles and knee-slapping laughs are linked with lower rates of heart disease, heart attack and stress. They also release pain-killing hormones and boost your immune system. The lesson? See a funny movie, catch a comedian or watch cartoons with the kids.
  • Melody-making. Mop the floor, scrub the tub or clean windows while you sing along with your favorite oldies station or a TV music-video channel. Tell your bemused spouse it’s AHA-approved.
  • Profiting. By finally cleaning out the attic, basement, garage and closets, you’ll have all you need for a money-making yard sale and receive a great feeling of accomplishment.
  • Gardening. Plant a garden, then lovingly tend it (you can grow indoors and outdoors). Besides calming the spirit, gardening lowers stress and provides mild exercise—and that reduces heart disease and burns calories just like other low-intensity exercises such as walking.
  • Reading. Move beyond the frenzied newspaper and magazine headlines and rediscover books. Get lost inside your local bookstore or library and let your mind travel and explore new worlds.
  • Memorializing. Learn to sketch or paint. Write about your life’s adventures. Sign up for courses on how to take photographs instead of snapshots. You’ll create permanent memories that no one can duplicate.
  • Harmonizing. Learn to play the piano, guitar, saxophone or drums. The art of reading music is a terrific memory protector, and the coordinated use of fingers, hands, arms and legs in music is great for your motor control.
  • ‘Funstigating.’ Make play-dough animals with the kids or grandkids. Play Frisbee with the dog. Ride your bike.
  • Going to the zoo or joining a bowling or tennis league. Toss the ball around. Go on a picnic. Put up a bird feeder and then enjoy the show.
  • Reasoning. Studies show that keeping our minds active as well as our bodies is an effective way to combat aging. Challenge yourself with crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles or games of Scrabble, chess or bridge. Take up a new hobby or even study a new language.
  • Volunteering. Forty million Americans devote their time and talents to a myriad of privately and publicly funded organizations and charities. Their activism and sense of belonging are a great health tonic—studies say volunteers live longer, happier and healthier lives.