Sure, knitting and scrapbooking are popular and afford a great creative outlet, but let's face it-they don't offer much in the way of physical activity, which many of us sorely need. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 30 percent of adults report being physically active in their free time, a number that seems to be in decline, an article in the June issue of the American Journal of Medicine reports. To increase your level of exercise, and thus your cardiovascular fitness, consider taking up the following hobbies:

•Gardening: Even First Lady Michelle Obama is getting a green thumb. Establishing your own backyard garden not only benefits the environment and your wallet but your cardiovascular system as well. You can grow fruits and vegetables that are good for you, and all that digging, hoeing, raking, and weeding you need to do to maintain the garden counts as a decent workout. A 150-pound woman can burn up to 270 calories during an hour's worth of gardening.

•Dancing: A host of TV shows such as Dancing with the Stars and a slew of workout DVDs like Dance Off the Inches: Hip-Hop Party have brought dancing back in vogue, which is a good thing considering the growing obesity rate and the significant heart disease problem in the U.S. Whether it be modern dancing, belly dancing, ballroom dancing, or ballet, a typical person can expect to shed as much as 370 calories in an hour and will have fun while getting a very good aerobic workout to boot.

•Bird-watching: A seemingly bookish, intellectual pursuit, keeping tabs on our fine feathered friends can benefit the heart because it requires its enthusiasts to hike through the woods in search of the next great ornithological find. Walking at a pace of two miles an hour for two hours will expend 380 calories. Experts recommend walking as a fabulous gateway to improved fitness, plus you learn more about birds, thereby increasing brain function as well as heart function.

•Golf: Ask any avid golfer and you'll find that it's more than a sport-it's a way of life. And this devotion can pay off in spades health wise: A Swedish study released last year found that golfers enjoy a death rate that is 40 percent lower than that of the general population.[1] Though golf is considered anaerobic exercise because it involves short bursts of activity, it still gives your heart a decent workout, and if you carry your own clubs and ditch the cart, you can burn a lot of calories in just one round.


[1] B. Farahmand, G. Broman, U. de Faire, D. Vågerö, A. Ahlbom. Golf: a game of life and death - reduced mortality in Swedish golf players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Published article online: 28-May-2008 DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00814.x