Being active isn’t always about speed, strength and sweat. As the seasons change it might be time to find pastimes that can be equally challenging but in different ways.

Whilst there’s nothing to beat getting out and about to blow the cobwebs away, it can be a challenge if the weather is inclement or you don’t want to be caught out by the shorter daylight hours. Nevertheless, there are plenty of activities that can be pursued indoors that will keep the brain active – a major indicator towards overall health and wellbeing.

Crossword puzzles 

According to research by the University of California at Berkley, problem-solving activities, such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku, can help the brain.

Researchers even found that individuals with high cognitive engagement could potentially lower their risk of onset or progression of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the reasons that crossword puzzles are so effective is that words can inspire nostalgia in a very potent way and that nostalgia is a factor towards better brain health. Some neuroscientists have suggested that when we connect with our past it gives us a boost of happiness.

Another benefit of engaging with puzzles is that they take us out of the ordinary stresses of life and act almost as meditation and can be used to calm us down. (The same can be said for most, if not all, of the activities listed here.)

Knitting and sewing

Newcomers to crafts such as knitting, sewing, macramé, origami, crochet, et al, can start small and simple. Clearly, some dexterity is necessary but there may be specific hand movements that you can do that lend themselves better to taking on some crafts rather than others. The hand movements required for folding paper differ significantly from threading a needle, for example.

Huge satisfaction can be gained in time as you progress from novice level to a point where you can produce something artistic or practical.

Pilates and Yoga 

The gentle stretching and movement required for disciplines such as Yoga and Pilates can help to increase flexibility, muscle strength and tone. In time this can also lead to improved respiration, energy and vitality.

This could be a smart way to maintain some of the benefits of physical activity when you don’t feel like getting outside. Beginners might choose to attend classes or perhaps even take ideas that they can try in their own homes from online videos.

Painting and drawing 

Anybody can be an artist. You expressions on paper or through sculpture are as valid as anyone else’s. Anyway, it’s still an absorbing hobby.

Starting couldn’t be easier: pick up a pencil or some cheap watercolour paints. (You could even borrow the stuff your kids play with.)

Drawing is about looking carefully at things, studying colours, form and light and dark – and then daubing to your heart’s content.


It doesn’t matter if it’s the daily rag, a Mills & Boon pulp romance or Milton, reading is good for you. Concentrating on text and analysing meaning are great exercise for the brain with side benefits such as increased vocabulary and better spelling. (Regular readers of Able Magazine will also realise that it’s a super way to pick up insightful lifestyle tips and advice.)

Television and radio 

The telly gets a bit of a bad rep. Whilst too much of it isn’t a good thing, that could be said of almost anything else – except green vegetables. We can all accept that there is such a thing as ‘junk television’, that is, just like food, programmes that give you nothing good or new – such as repeats you’ve seen hundreds of times or stuff that you aren’t really engaging with. (Strictly speaking, this isn’t watching television, this is sitting down whilst the television is playing.)

Relaxation is important. One of the best things about television is that watching a TV programme or listening to music for that matter, is that it takes as long as it takes. In other words, it can’t be rushed, allowing you to take it in properly – unless of course, you choose to fast forward, in which case, you should probably find something more interesting to watch or listen to.


Without being overly competitive, board games can require thinking and strategy. A game of cards with friends also provides certain mathematical calculations that you might not even realise you’re making. Further to that, it’s a nice thing to do socially.


There’s more to cookery than meets the eye; it involves analysing and interpreting recipes, mathematics, dexterity and skill – but that shouldn’t put you off! There are few things as satisfying as eating something home cooked, be it an omelette or something more ambitious.


There are still opportunities to enjoy high intensity physical activity without venturing outside. There are likely to be local opportunities to take part in indoor sports such as table tennis or walking cricket or football – or to visit the gym.

The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) has been established for several years, supporting leisure centres to become more welcoming and accessible environments to disabled people. Facilities awarded the IFI accreditation can be found through an online search tool via the English Federation of Disability Sport website or through the other disability sport federations.