7 hobbies to recharge your body and mind

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published April 18, 2019

Key Takeaways

Consider that for most of their careers, physicians work an average of 40 to 60 hours per week, but approximately 25% work between 61 and 80 hours per week, according to Work/Life Profiles of Today's Physician, from American Medical Association Insurance. Long hours, grueling shifts, emergencies, difficult patients, and documentation demands are just some of the things that can take a toll physically and mentally on busy physicians. No wonder physician burnout rates are higher than ever.

For doctors, engaging in a hobby is a wonderful way to relieve the stress caused by the busy practice of medicine. Hobbies can add interest to your life, and give you something to look forward to in your spare time. The health benefits of having a hobby are plentiful, but perhaps the greatest of these—especially for physicians—is the stress relief they provide.

When you engage in a hobby, you actually relax and refocus your energies. Hobbies allow—and require—you to be present and "in the zone." This not only reduces stress levels, but can renew your sense of well-being as well. Disconnecting from your usual worries and responsibilities, and focusing your full, undivided attention on a hobby—even for a short time—will relieve burnout and refresh you spiritually and mentally as well.

MDLinx has compiled a list of seven hobbies for physicians that will get you up and moving, mentally stimulate you, and provide the all-important stress relief that all busy physicians need.


You don't have to be a Boy Scout to appreciate orienteering. A timed event in which participants navigate through a series of checkpoints on an unmarked route, orienteering requires you to navigate your way across a natural landscape, from one checkpoint to the other, using only minimal equipment: a map and a compass. No GPS allowed!

Orienteering is a great way to brush up on your navigating and map skills, and spend some time in the great outdoors. It also offers both mental and physical challenges.

Orienteering clubs offer both training and orienteering meets. Some local parks have permanent courses that are a great way to get started and hone your skills. For organizations near you, visit Orienteering USA.

Historical reenactment

If you're a history buff, volunteering in historical reenactments may be your chance to make the past come alive—for yourself and for others. While Civil War battles are the most popular, there are reenactment groups for almost any historical era, including the Middle Ages, the American Revolution, World War I, World War II, and even ancient Rome and the Colonial era.

Increased physical activity and time spent outdoors, along with the socialization and mental stimulation you will gain from engaging in reenacting history can go a long way towards relieving stress and making you healthier.

The best way to get started is to go to a reenactment near you, as a spectator. When you decide to participate, a number of historical reenactment societies exist, so choose your historical favorite, and check out the websites.

Homebrewing beer

Beer-making is almost as old as humanity, and the basic process has remained largely unchanged. And although you may know people who have basements or garages full of equipment dedicating to homebrewing, the good news is, you really need minimal equipment to engage in this wonderful hobby.

According to the folks at Northern Brewer.com, "If you can make mac and cheese from a box without help, you can make beer." The easiest way to start is with basic homebrewing kits, which are available at many retail and grocery stores, or online.

In recent studies, researchers have shown that light drinking is linked to a lower risk of heart failure, and that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of mortality from myocardial infarction. And beer, specifically, can reduce your risk for diabetes, and increase "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in overweight men.

So, pick up a beginner's kit and get started. Imagine sharing your homebrewed beer with your family and friends, and being able to say, "I made it myself."


According to the Audubon Society, 47 million Americans are birders. Gear is minimal: a good pair of binoculars, a good field guide, a weatherproof notebook, and a good birding app. And you can bird from home. Green spaces and areas near open water are good choices. There are a myriad of birdwatching clubs throughout the country, with meetups, chapters, and online communities ready to provide information, meetings, socializing, and trips.

The Audubon Society offers handy tips and pointers, as well as a roundup of the best birding apps and field guides available.

Birdwatching will get you moving, get you outdoors, and pique your interest in the beautiful species of birds you will find. The physical and mental stimulation will improve your health. In addition, the simple acts of finding and observing birds will help you strengthen not only your attention span, but your patience and powers of observation as well.

Survival training

Survival training teaches people to survive in the wilderness. This training can be used to learn survival skills, or as a recreational activity. Long hikes, learning how to light fires, fishing, finding water, and preparing your own food over an open fire are just some of the tasks that those who choose to learn survival training will be put through. Training is usually done in forested areas, mountain ranges, and hilly terrain. There are even survival training courses for kids.

Survival training is a great way to learn to not rely on man-made luxuries and conveniences. Not only is this type of training physically and mentally challenging, it is also a great way to connect with nature. Visit The Survival Directory to find a course near you.


It's been said time and time again, but it bears repeating: The benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally, are exponential. Yoga encompasses nearly 100 different schools of practice, but most sessions include breathing exercises, meditation, and poses to stretch the muscle groups throughout the body.

The practice of yoga focuses on the body's natural tendency towards health and self-healing. Its purpose is to increase strength, awareness, and harmony in the mind and body. The benefits of practicing yoga include increased muscle strength and tone, increased flexibility, better heart health, better metabolism, weight reduction, and better cardiovascular health.

The meditation and breathing incorporated into yoga serve to reduce stress and improve mental well-being. Mental clarity, calmness, relaxation, centered attention, and sharpened concentration can all be achieved through the regular practice of yoga.

Local yoga classes are plentiful, as are online courses or practices that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Practicing yoga for even 20 minutes a day can go a long way towards improving your physical health, and relaxing your mind. And the results are almost immediate.


Like yoga, the health benefits of gardening are plentiful. Not only is it a fun and relaxing way to get outside and commune with nature, it's also good for the mind and the body. Gardening requires no special skills, and finally, you get to reap what you sow—literally!

Raking, weeding, shoveling, lifting, spreading. Squatting, stooping, pulling, pushing. For extreme athletes, gardening may not seem like much of a workout, but, it is enough for most people to get their heart and respiratory rates up, and muscles working, especially when done for longer periods. Gardening is considered moderate physical activity, and is also a form of aerobic exercise. Even the less strenuous gardening activities—such as weeding, trimming, and raking—can burn about 300 calories per hour.

Mentally, you will reap the rewards of the fresh air, sunshine, and working with your hands in the earth. Gardening can boost your mood and alleviate stress, and researchers have shown that it can even help reduce your risk of depression. Finally, think of the benefits to your diet. Herbs and greens such as lettuce, kale, and collard greens are simple to grow and healthy to boot.

Trying new things is good for the mind and body, and can help you get out of a well-worn rut. As with many things, the most difficult part of any hobby is actually getting started. And don't be discouraged by the learning curve, which is part of the process of becoming good at anything, as physicians know well.

Sometimes hobbies can take years to perfect. But, take on the challenge, go slowly, and don't pressure yourself into achieving perfection from the start. The results may surprise you, and your eagerness and interest in something new, refresh you.

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