In-home activities or recreation and cultural facility use: Which is better for your wellbeing?

rubber boots in rain

Today is a lovely March day. The sun is peeking through the clouds, it’s warm(ish)… it’s pretty magical! It might only be Tuesday but, though I am diligently writing for you all, I am already casually pondering what I might do over the weekend (I am sure you can relate). I took a peek at the weather forecast hoping I would see more days like today forecast for Saturday and Sunday, but to my dismay it looks like rain. So, right now I have this lovely list ranging from Netflix, to dinner with friends, to tidying my house, and perhaps a tiny bit more Netflix. Sounds dreamy, right? But as I think through the logistics, I realize that it is quite possible I won’t spend more than eight minutes outside my home all weekend.

Are you finding yourself in a similar predicament? For those of you with families, do you scramble to keep everyone entertained inside your nice warm, dry home when the weather doesn’t cooperate?

Well, I am here to tell you (and perhaps myself too) to buck up, pop on your gear, and get out there! We all need to make sure we are getting out and mingling within the community this season because, well, it’s good for us!

Our Community Wellbeing Surveys (CWS) asked Canadians across the country about experiences living in their communities. I drew upon the CWS data to check in on how participation in various activities, both inside and outside the home, influences different aspects of our wellbeing.

First, I took a look at just how frequently the Canadians we surveyed are participating in different types of activities. For in-home activities, our surveys asked people to report how many times a week they engaged in different leisure activities like reading, doing puzzles, and other hobbies. As you might have expected, there was a broad range of responses, so I simplified it into thirds. I labelled the bottom 33% “low participation,” the middle 33% “average participation,” and the top 33% “high participation.”

We also asked Canadians to rate their mental and physical health from “poor” (1) to “excellent” (5). Take a look at how our participation level in in-home activities relates to our perceptions of our mental and physical health:

Average Self-Assessed Mental and Physical Health by Level of In-Home Activity Participation

As you can see, participating in activities like crafts, reading, and puzzles at home can certainly have a positive influence on our feelings of health and wellbeing. Although I am a little surprised (and you may be too) to find that these generally sedentary activities can help to boost Canadians’ perceptions of their physical health, I expected that such activities might relate to feelings of mental health and wellbeing.

In order to understand how participating in activities outside the home influences our wellbeing, I looked at how often people who took our survey used recreation and cultural facilities in their communities. We asked about all kinds of “facilities” from parks, to swimming pools and skating rinks, to historic sites and performing arts venues, to libraries. I took a look at how regularly, on average, people used recreation and cultural facilities. Like in-home activities, I split the responses into low, average, and high participation. Here is what I found:

Average Self-Assesed Physical and Mental Health by Level of Recreation and Cultural Facility Use

Similar to in-home activity participation, as recreation and cultural facility use increases, feelings of mental and physical health improve. Whether we are running around a track or sauntering through a museum, we are more physically active when we are out enjoying facilities than when we are couch surfing in our homes. Perhaps this is what contributes to the increase in positive feelings about our physical health. As for our mental health, I would bet that endorphins and social engagement might be a couple of reasons why we see an increase.

I have one more thing to show you. Our surveys asked people to rate their sense of belonging to community from “very weak” (1) to “very strong” (7).  I tested how in-home activity participation and use of recreation and cultural facilities influences a person’s sense of belonging to their community. Check it out: 

Average Sense of Belonging by In-Home Activity Participation and Recreation and Cultural Facility Use

The amount people participate in in-home activities seemingly has no influence on their sense of belonging to their community! The average sense of belonging reported by those who participate in in-home activities is fairly high. Perhaps some of these participants are engaged in hobby clubs related to their activities of interest, and these keep them feeling connected to their community.

In contrast, as we move from low facility use to high facility use you can see that people’s sense of belonging to community increases.

This means that the more you and your loved ones get out there and skate, swim, run, play, or borrow books, the more you will feel as if you belong to the community around you.

Pretty cool!

So the moral of the story is, as long as you are doing something – whether it is crafts in the living room or touring your local art gallery – the better your chances of positive feelings about your mental and physical health. That being said, if you can zip on a coat, pull on your boots, and get out there, you might very well feel more connected to the community around you. And to me, that is worth abandoning Netflix.

Stay well, folks!

How do you and your loved ones stay motivated to venture out of your homes, even in bad weather? Tweet us @ciwnetwork

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