6 hobbies that could improve your performance at work, according to science

Elle Kaplan, Contributor
Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
Ian Crysler | Getty Images

Revitalize your work and life by enjoying these new and exciting activities. Besides being enjoyable, each of these hobbies has a wealth of scientific research to back up its benefits. So give in to what sparks your interest and enjoy the rewards it has to offer.

1. Learn to cook

Self-help expert Tim Ferriss felt that cooking was important enough to center his 3rd book around it. In "The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life," Ferriss uses cooking as a way of explaining methods for 'accelerated learning.'

Furthermore, as reported by Johns Hopkins University, cooking at home has been a proven way of improving your diet. When done regularly, it not only improves what you put into your body at home (fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat), but also improves your diet when you dine out.

If your day feels too packed to add cooking to the mix, make it a weekend adventure. Once you've begun trying new recipes and methods, it could become a regular part of your routine.

The far-reaching benefits of a good diet are undeniable at this point. Your body will be healthier and, according to experts, your memory and alertness will increase. All good news for your work life.

2. Take an exercise class

If you don't already have an exercise habit, it can be difficult to get started. Make things easier for yourself by signing up for a class near your home or work. If it happens to be along your commute, all the better, since you won't be able to avoid it!

Don't worry about being 'ready' to improve your fitness. Many traditional forms of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong are tailored to fit your level and needs. Also, they are proven to have a myriad of benefits for your mental and physical health.

Tai chi is one of the gentlest forms of exercise. Nonetheless, Harvard Medical School reports that it has been proven to increase muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. On the mental side, Tai Chi, along with yoga and Qigong, improve mental clarity and induce relaxation.

These forms of exercise are sure to help you maintain focus, energy, and composure at work.

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3. Play a team sport

Team sports bring their own unique benefits. If you are a part of a company that has a team sport, get involved. Not only will you be treating your body well, you'll be having fun and fostering relationships with your co-workers.

If there isn't a sport connected with your work, look elsewhere to find one that will allow you to network with people in your field or related fields.

Team sports also benefit your communication skills, focus, stress management, and goal setting skills.

4. Pick up a book

He may be one of the richest men in the world, but Bill Gates is dedicated to one of the world's least expensive hobbies: reading. Bill Gates reportedly goes through 50 books a year. "These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists, and watch a lot of lectures online," Gates explains. "But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding."

While lectures and online resources are incredible tools for staying abreast of a wide range of up-to-date information, there is no substitute for the depth of a good book. Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Oprah Winfrey are just three more examples of highly successful people who make reading a regular part of their life.

Apart from increasing your conscious knowledge, the scientific benefits of reading are numerous and even surprising. Reading strengthens your neural pathways. In one study, participants who read a book the night before were found to have more activity in the part of the brain associated with language and intelligence.

Pick up a book, and you'll find yourself more alert and ready to face the workday.

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5. Embrace your artistic side

Albert Einstein's son had this to say about his father: "Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties." In between groundbreaking scientific discoveries, Einstein always found the time to practice violin or piano. Moreover, he used these hobbies to enter a more creative state of mind to solve problems that had been eluding him.

It has been proven that art in the workplace actually increases productivity. Furthermore, you can bring art or music into your personal life by taking a class or lesson. Don't be concerned about becoming the next Picasso. The benefits will be apparent, no matter what your level: You will be able to decompress, make a habit of entering a creative mindset and be able to 'reset' after a long day at work.

6. Learn a language

Thanks to all the recent developments in how our brains work, learning a new language has never been easier. It is now widely understood that, with the right approach, you can reach conversational level in a matter of months.

Knowing a second or third language will open the door to new cultures, partners, and markets. Even if you have not yet attained fluency, an attempt to communicate will foster better relationships with native speakers. Also, studies have shown that mental alertness increases with the acquisition of a new language regardless of age.

Take a look at this list of books to jumpstart your language learning adventure.


Though work and home life should be valued separately, an improvement in your outside life will be sure to benefit your performance at work. Take the first step by committing to a new class or learning activity. You'll be expanding your mind and upgrading your life.

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the Chief Investment Officer at LexION Alpha, her systematic hedge fund. It is one of the only women-owned and run hedge funds in the nation.

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