The importance of learning new skills for your health

As we go through life, it’s easy to get into a rut, doing the same things. But in doing so we unknowingly risk our health. Learning new skills, be it anything from cooking to marathon running, is a vital way to stay healthy and improve quality of life.

Stay sharp: learn new skills.

It can do this in a variety of ways. Most surprisingly, it can actually change the structure of your brain itself. It’s been shown that learning a new skill forces the brain to create new neural pathways. Learning new skills makes the brain work harder, increasing neural activity, and when neural activity increases the myelin in the brain (that’s the “grey matter”) strengthens. It’s a virtuous circle, the more you learn the better your brain becomes at learning. The message is clear, keep your mind sharp by learning new skills. It doesn’t have to be anything so complex as learning a language either, even something like playing card games can increase health benefits by making you think in new ways. Learning new skills can even help to stave off dementia.

Sociability is a key to health.

Away from the actual physical improvements, it’s been shown repeatedly that increased sociability comes with a whole host of health benefits, from physical to mental. We’re sociable animals, and new activities can force you to get out there and increase your circle of friends, with incalculable knock-on benefits. Learning new skills makes you a more rounded and interesting person, and gives you more confidence in your day to day life.

Get out there to get healthy

If your new skill is something physical, like rock-climbing or playing squash, then benefits will naturally accrue from the extra exercise. This is particularly true if you don’t already exercise, but even those who keep themselves fit can make huge gains by doing something outside of their normal routine, working out muscles they wouldn’t normally.