DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Use of Leisure Time - Implications for Health and Well Being

The American Time Use Survey, reports from which are featured on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, reveal some interesting data about how people spend time. Of particular interest here are two activities, television and Internet usage, that consume significant portions of available leisure time. For example, watching TV accounted for half of the leisure time available to men and women (2.62 and 2.88 hours per day on average). As might be expected, young people from 15-19 spend more leisure time on computers than people of other ages. The average for this age group was around 50 minutes per day. In contrast, leisure activity involving sports, exercise or other types of recreation averaged slightly less than 30 minutes per day.

The implications of these statistics for health should be apparent. Sedentary activities may be interesting, but they don't provide the kind of movement necessary for maintaining fitness, including strength, endurance, and proper body mass index (percentage of fat) to avoid risk of obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Movement burns calories, and regular exercise coupled with moderate and appropriate food intake helps to maintain weight within healthy limits.

How people use time, obviously, not only has significant consequences for physical fitness, but it also influences other types of "psychological fitness", such as how interested or bored they are, and how challenged or motivated they may be to participate in activities that lead to skill development, accomplishment, and improvements in self-esteem or self confidence. Research shows that when people are successful in new activities or projects, they are more inclined to undertake additional challenges. These cumulative successes create the sense of meaning that we need to live our lives with energy and purpose .

Unfortunately, time use surveys have not yet begun to gather data on qualitative factors, such as the feelings one might have that are associated with doing a particular activity. Part of those feelings, of course, are based on the context in which an activity is done ( that is, who is with us, what motivated us, what need will be served, etc.); but time use scientists generally feel that the opportunity exists for gathering more qualitative data in such surveys.

As time use science evolves, there will be more objective evidence to provide guidance to people on how to design their lives for optimal health and happiness. This is just another part of the interdisciplinary science of everyday living.

About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.