If you can benefit from a list of hobbies that don’t hurt your hands – that is, pastimes for people with hand injuries, limited hand use or arthritis in the hands – this is the place for you. Keep reading for an ever-growing list of ideas and suggestions.
My hands hurt right now. They usually do. It’s one of the hazards of writing for decades. I’ve tried many things to alleviate the pain, but that’s a story for another time. Today I’m powering through the pain to write about things you can do in your downtime to rest and expand your mind when you don’t want to use your hands very much.
Since 2020, I’ve been compiling ideas for hands-free hobbies or hobbies that require limited hand use. I thought I might write a book or find someone to publish an in-depth article on the topic. But I never bothered to try. Still, I’ve spent too much time on this project to keep my findings to myself, so I’m sharing what I’ve learned here.
Remember not to take up a new activity without consulting your doctor. A medical professional who is familiar with your abilities and limitations may be able to offer great advice about hobbies that fit your situation – if you take the time to ask.
Without additional introduction, here are some ideas for hobbies that don’t hurt your hands – in random order. This is a short and incomplete list, but I’m adding additional ideas as I find them. Have a suggestion? Reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.
Hobbies That Don’t Hurt Your Hands
Spiritual exploration is easy to do on your terms. You can practice meditation and similar spiritual and mindfulness pursuits just about anywhere and with minimal preparation or physical activity. Most of these practices focus on learning to be present in the moment, getting connected to the world around you and becoming better aware of your position in the universe. And mindfulness is inexpensive because you don’t need a lot of equipment. You can find instructions on how to get started and some pleasing music for meditation on YouTube or from a mindfulness app like Headspace.
Ham radio is a fun way to communicate with people around the world. Although not as popular as it was in the past, this hobby is also useful if you have an interest in weather-watching or are concerned that you may need an emergency communication method. A license may not be required for listening to transmissions, but sending always requires an easy-to-obtain license. Ham radios are available for around $100, but some may have small, hard-to-press buttons. Experts recommend buying a small, inexpensive ham radio before getting a license to listen and see if you enjoy the hobby.
A sedentary activity if you want it to be, birdwatching is watching birds do what they do in a natural environment. This can be as simple as looking out a window or visiting a local park. Birdwatching events are available at many state and national parks, and you can take tours to locales around the world that focus on this hobby. Some people check off birds they’ve spotted in a guidebook or take pictures with complicated camera setups, but you can just look for enjoyment. Binoculars may enhance the experience if you can manage them.
With ample styles to choose from, dancing is right for almost everyone – even some with disabilities or coordination issues. And hands are not required in many types of dancing. The gentle movements of some types of dancing can even help reduce hip and knee pain, increase muscle strength and coordination and help improve your mood. Look for places you can dance to live music. You can choose to take some classes or simply show up at a street festival, music venue or wherever people will be enjoying themselves through dance.
You may not consider this a hobby, but it was my mother’s favorite pastime. She didn’t knit, crochet or play any sports, and during most phases of her life, she didn’t go for walks. But she people-watched at every opportunity. Whether sitting near the window of a fast-food restaurant or on a bench at a park, she loved watching people as they passed and musing about why they were behaving in ways that seemed strange to her. There’s no equipment or planning necessary for people watching. Just have a seat in a place where people are likely to pass, then make up stories in your head about them. You can even sit in a car or on a bus if you like.
Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think about sports without hands, soccer requires lots of athleticism – particularly running. Soccer (called football outside the United States) can be played easily by people with no hands or very limited hand usage if you’re in good physical condition otherwise. Soccer teams for people of all ability levels are available in many large cities – or you can arrange a game with friends to see if this sport is for you. While spectators may find it slow, keeping up with the ball usually keeps participants busy.
Although many swimming strokes involve hand usage, many do not. People with significant upper extremity damage or amputations can enjoy swimming with ease using strokes that focus on core strength and leg motions for propulsion and steering. Those with arthritis may find that movement is easier underwater since buoyancy will relieve some of your body weight from your joints and muscles. Find a free or inexpensive public pool near you and ask about lessons, if necessary. Some health clubs have pools. Even a hot tub can give you the opportunity to allow your arms to float, perhaps taking away some of the strain and easing any pain you may have.
On your own, at a class or with an instructional video, you can participate in many aspects of Tai Chi without putting stress on your body. In fact, this Chinese martial art dating to the 13th century is excellent for people with arthritis and other joint ailments and can increase mobility in joints, improve balance and aid in pain relief. It involves deep breathing, fluid movements, relaxation and low-impact mind-body exercise. It can be adapted for anyone, including those who use wheelchairs. (Try yoga and other similar mind-body exercise programs too.)
Running and Jogging
Admittedly, a certain level of athleticism is required to run or jog, but very little equipment is needed and there’s no impact on your hands. While arms play a role in balance when running, your body will discover a remarkable ability to compensate when exercising. If you have arthritis or other pain issues with your hands, you may have similar issues in other joints. Running can make things worse or better depending on your circumstances, so talk with your doctor if you have joint issues before setting off – as you should with any strenuous or hazardous activity.
Walking is a very different hobby than running or jogging. While the purpose of running or jogging may be physical stamina-building or cardiovascular health, walking can range from “power walking” – stepping so fast you’re nearly running without severe impact on your knees – to simply wandering around looking at scenery and speaking to neighbors and friends you see along the way. In a neighborhood or along a popular trail, walking can be a social activity. You can also arrange a group of walking buddies and set aside time each day or week for walking in a group.
More than exercise, water aerobics is a form of dance that can become a passion for those who take up this method of expression. Classes range in intensity from very easy to quite complex and can help recondition your body by improving flexibility, strength and range of motion. You may find that issues you have on dry land don’t bother you when you’re in the water. For soothing pain relief, select a class taught in a warm water pool rather than an unheated one so the temperature of the water remains consistent.
Wine And Beer Pursuits
There’s much more to wine and beer than enjoying a glass from time to time. While some take up homebrewing – which requires significant hand usage and a lot of space – others prefer to go for more relaxing aspects of imbibing like beer tastings, creating wine pairings or attending dining events that include wine and beer. With some hand usage or assistance, you can learn mixology – the art and science of creating cocktails and other complex beverages, which may also involve hard liquor, juices and more.
Be a leader rather than a follower by starting a club related to any topic that interests you. You may be able to find like-minded people in your area on Meetup or by searching for your city plus a keyword phrase like “book club San Diego”, for example. You could find that a club already exists near you – or you could find other people who would be willing to join your group. Start a watch party for a favorite TV show, a listening club for new music from local artists or spiritual group that shares lunches and brief meditations. If you have an interest, others probably do as well.
The world of podcasts is larger than many people realize. These audio presentations you can listen to online range from free-form monologues or conversations involving people you’ve never heard of to slick and highly produced celebrity-filled shows. Scripted programs – sometimes similar to old-fashioned radio dramas – are also included in the podcast genre. And you can create and distribute your own podcast with minimal effort – if you have something to say, of course. To get started listening, try Google Podcasts or Apple Podcasts.
Watching TV or Movies Actively
Watching television or a movie doesn’t have to be a passive activity. By researching background on actors, writers and producers, you can follow the careers of industry professionals past and present. You can explore documentaries on climate change, watch subtitled Italian movies or see early reality shows. Interested in British TV comedies? Watch those that star Judy Dench, for example, then explore her costars – like Geoffrey Palmer. Next, explore his other costars. You could be watching for years. Or you could decide to drop that line and move to another topic or type of television or movie production. As you read about shows and pros, you can become an expert hobbyist on just about any TV or movie genre. You can discuss what you’re learning with others in Facebook groups or on message boards too.
For several seasons, I attended minor league baseball games – not because I like or even understand the sport. Instead, I was there because I could take my mother, who enjoyed the games. I enjoyed being outside and among the cheering crowd. The cost was small to see a game at the convenient field with easy parking. And I rarely sat in my seat. While others kept my mother company, I used the time to wander the riverbank behind the stadium, sit in an undesirable outfield seat that hadn’t sold and read a book on my Kindle app or try the stadium food. If you like being near an upbeat crowd, there may be inexpensive opportunities for sports spectating near you.
Almost a relic in a world where texting, Facebook, Twitter and video chat have taken over as primary modes of communication, a telephone tree is a great way to stay in touch in with those who shun technology or don’t know how to use it. Creating or participating in a telephone tree means gathering useful information and disseminating it by phone to several people – perhaps people who will then share it with several more. This can also be a sort of ministry or social service that allows you to check on people who may not hear from others often.
Don’t dismiss this hobby quite so quickly as you might – because it doesn’t have to be hard on your hands and doesn’t require special skills. If you know about meter and verse, that’s great, but there are no rules for free verse or prose poetry. Since poems often involve fewer words that essays, typing or writing is minimal. You can also compose in your head (which requires you to think carefully about your word choices) and dictate to your phone for an app to transcribe or for someone else to type up later. Once you get accustomed to poetry, you can write a poem in only a few minutes and show it off however you like – or not at all.
There are many things you can collect without using your hands very much – and elements from the periodic table are among them. Did you know that there are element collectors? Gather samples of platinum, gold and silver – if you can afford them – plus iron, zinc, manganese, nickel and more. You can even collect vials of gases and liquids if they interest you – and store everything in a plastic case shaped like the periodic table that you can order online. Hand usage is minimal because these collections are often intended for looking rather than handling. (Most people exclude poisonous and radioactive elements, of course!)
The goal of this unusual hobby is to see how often you can get on television as a bystander where reporters are covering live news. The most prolific newsraiders have appeared in the background of hundreds of broadcasts. Choose a signature outfit and you just might get noticed and develop a following. Police scanners and Facebook can help you discover where the action is – then you can get on the road to the scene. If you have to drive it may be hard on your hands, but news may happen within walking distance. At least it gets you out of the house. (Just be sure to stay out of danger.)
Plane, Train or Bus Spotting
If you like to get out of the house but aren’t quite sure what to do while exploring your neighborhood or an area you’re visiting, consider taking up bus, train or plane spotting – depending on which modes of transportation you can access. Spotters track the movements of these vehicles, perhaps photographing ones they spot and usually recording information about routes, attributes, noises and more. With trains, you might attempt to photograph one the only day the route has ever been run with a replacement engine. (Did you know that a person who enjoys watching water traffic on canals is sometimes called a gongoozler?)
I don’t know the real name of this hobby – if it has one – but I’ve seen blogs devoted to the wide range of street signs that grace (or detract from) neighborhoods and freeways. Did you know that freeway signs are usually in the same font throughout the state or country and follow abbreviation rules? But there are exceptions and mistakes. Street signs in neighborhoods follow conventions as well – at least, they sometimes do. You might even find interesting to look for and perhaps photograph advertising billboard for favorite brands too.
Live-Action Role Playing (LARP)
Is there a LARP group in your area? There very well may be. When you participate in live action role-playing – sometimes lumped in with a similar activity called cosplay – you attend an event in character and interact within the rules and confines of the game or environment the team has chosen. In other words, you dress up and pretend to be someone else for a day, evening or weekend. While handwork is necessary for homemade costumes, you can find readymade options or have someone do the work for you. If you can’t find a local group, inquire at a science fiction or comic convention.
If you have good general knowledge or deep knowledge of a particular subject, you might be good at trivia gaming. Contests are often held at bars and pubs, but regularly scheduled trivia events might also happen at local art museums or community centers. Prizes are usually small, but you can easily make friends at these events, especially if teams are involved. You may be required to have quick hand reflexes to ring in on an electronic device, but not all events use these devices. Venues usually list trivia nights on their website.
YouTube Content Creation
Everything on YouTube was made by someone. Why not you? Depending on what type of videos you make and unload, hand usage may be very minimal. Some people simply click the record button on their phone and talk until they’ve finished their advice, review, comments or routine. Others add graphics, edit for a professional feel and may spend hours setting up demonstrations, recording voiceovers and more. When it’s your content, you’re in charge of how it’s made and can adjust to your ability level. Upload to YouTube, share on social media and try to establish a follower base. There are even ways to make money if you get popular.
Remarkably, some people don’t realize the potential of singing as a hobby. Whether you do it at home or in an ensemble, singing allows for spiritual, mental and emotional exploration without a lot of travel. It can be meditative or strenuous. It can be sedentary or active. And hobby-level singing is possible for just about anyone. Videos and classes can help you learn some basics – or you can just do the best you can on your own. It can even increase lung capacity and respiratory strength. You may want to join a church choir or look for karaoke events near you where amateurs sing along with recorded tracks.
Museum And Exhibition Visiting
Art museums usually don’t allow touching, so using your hands is not required. Most major cities and many smaller ones have museums with permanent collections, rotating exhibits and perhaps even cafes and shops. Wander through to see what appeals to you, then consider participating in a “slow art” class or presentation, if offered. At these events, join others who set aside 15 to 45 minutes for contemplating just one or two works. If standing is a problem for you, most museums have benches or folding stools. They may even allow you to bring your own.
Not nearly as morbid or strange as it sounds, cemetery exploration isn’t much different than visiting a history museum. Many graveyards are beautiful, carefully manicured places – while others require boots and insect repellent. Either way, every headstone has a story, and some stories are more obvious or easier to uncover than others. Research cemeteries in advance to find out which might most interest you. Also called tombstone tourism, you could choose to find geocaches (hidden containers) or fulfill recent photo requests from Find a Grave while you’re exploring.
That’s the end for now. But this list is never complete, just as no life is complete without a good hobby or two. We all deserve to have a little fun – even if our hands hurt.