Hobbies aren't just a fun way to pass the time. Research has shown that mildly creative pursuits like knitting, cooking, or photography actually boost your performance at work. But did you know that certain after-hours activities can actually make you smarter too?

That's the contention of a useful infographic put together by Pro Essay Writer. Choose the right hobby, the site contends, and you will be boosting your brainpower at the same time as you enjoyably while away your evenings and weekends. Here are the activities it recommends, along with a little more on the science behind each idea.

1. Exercise

No surprise here. Keeping fit has been shown to have just about every benefit you can think of, from making people better leaders to increasing their creativity (and it promotes physical health, of course). PsyBlog even recently reported that exercise can improve mental health by a whopping 50 percent.

According to the infographic, in addition to all this, hitting the gym will make you smarter. Exercise "enhances object recognition memory -- the ability to discriminate the familiarity of previously encountered objects" and "releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) -- a protein linked to cognitive benefits such as long-term memory," it asserts.

2. Playing a musical instrument

Strumming that guitar isn't just a creative outlet; it's also a brain workout that "enhances cognitive skills and academic achievement by promoting the development of executive function," states the infographic.

And here's a further note for parents: A new Australian study shows that "informal music-making in the home from around the ages of 2 and 3 can lead to better literacy, numeracy, social skills, and attention and emotion regulation by the age of 5," reports Quartz. So get strumming and singing if that's something you enjoy.

3. Playing video games

If the infographic's first suggestion was head-slappingly obvious, this one will come as more of a shock to some people. Derided as a mind-numbing time suck in some quarters, video games actually develop working memory and improve spatial navigation and motor performance (though one wonders: Is that just a fancy way of saying your thumbs get faster?), according to the infographic.

The site isn't the only one standing up for the mental benefits of video games. Apparently, they're also a good way to train yourself to make decisions under pressure. "In a study out of the University of Minnesota, frequent players of first-person shooter games (which are thick with hot decisions) learn--not surprisingly--how to make them better," says a Forbes post on the subject.

4. Learning a new language

"Learning a language isn't just useful for traveling -- it can also slow brain aging and have a positive effect on later life cognition," says the infographic, which also praises bilingual individuals as better at solving puzzles, planning, and task management because of their brains' experience switching between languages.

The crowdsourced wisdom of question-and-answer site Quora agrees, which suggests learning a second language as one of the many everyday activities that can make you more intelligent.

5. Reading

This might be another obvious-sounding choice, but many of us still underestimate the powerful benefits of picking up a book (which might be why a shockingly number of college graduates -- 42 percent -- have supposedly never finished a book since getting their degree).

"Daily reading causes significant increases in connectivity in the left temporal cortex of the brain -- an area associated with receptivity for language," the infographic explains. You can find out more about the considerable benefits of reading here.

How many of these hobbies do you pursue?

Published on: Nov 18, 2015