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10 things to do with an 'extra' 24 leap day hours

By The Health News Team | February 29, 2024
Woman outdoors jumping in happiness

Leap days come along just once every four years. And other than celebrating the poor souls with a February 29 birthday who only get the occasional birthday, there are plenty of things you can do with the "extra" time.

One of the best ways to spend those 24 leap day hours is to work on improving your health and wellness. Here’s how:



Sleep plays a pivotal role in so many aspects of our health, from keeping our minds strong to warding off illness and disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's important that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night — and the quality of that sleep is crucial. The last day of February gives you 24 "added" hours — sleep is the perfect use of nine of them. Learn how to get a good night’s sleep.



Beyond simply being good for you, regular physical activity can improve your overall health and quality of life. The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity — such as brisk walking — each week and do activities that strengthen muscles — such as weight training — at least two days a week. Why not leap into some of that exercise on February’s “bonus day.” Learn the types of activities that can improve your health.


Chill out.

Busy schedules, family conflicts, health concerns, financial woes — these and other issues can lead to an overwhelming feeling of stress. And during stressful times, your stress hormones — such as cortisol and epinephrine — rise, revving up your system to be able to respond to stressful circumstances. Too much stress and the resulting release of stress hormones can have a negative effect not only on your emotional health but also on your physical health. This year’s leap day gives you time for the break you need. Learn ways to reduce stress.



Let’s be honest: Mess causes stress. Experts say your external world relates to your inner world — each affects the other in both positive and negative ways. Overall, clutter decreases your ability to think clearly, move through life easily and safely, and calmly approach challenges. Taking control of your space, and the things in it, offers several benefits to you and those around you. Try taking some time to conquer the junk drawer or purge the things you haven’t worn since the last leap year to clear your mind — and closet. Learn how losing the mess can relieve your stress.


Get care.

Did you put off care during the pandemic and have not yet caught up? Consider calling for a February 29 appointment. A wellness check-in with your primary care doctor or an advanced practice provider, such as a physician assistant, is a great idea if you’re not already being seen regularly for other health conditions. Wellness check-ins, experts say, are a good way to make sure your screenings are up to date and you’re making necessary adjustments on your health journey. Learn when — and why — you should see your doctor.


Rehab your diet.

When it comes to eating, many of us have developed habits — some good and some not so good. Good eating habits include consuming more fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated fat and added sugars, drinking more water, and watching portion sizes. And it’s not just about making poor food choices, such as eating too much fast food. Some of your not-so-good eating habits are from certain behaviors you may have developed without even realizing. If so, it’s time to switch it up — and the 29th is a great time to get started. Learn how to break unhealthy eating patterns and form good eating habits.


Set goals.

Sometimes, when setting health and wellness goals, we tend to be overambitious. We set a goal to lift a certain amount of weight or lose a certain number of pounds, only to step into the gym once and never return. How can we prevent ourselves from burning out and losing track of our goals? First, goals should be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Use some time on the leap day to sit down and set a few new — or revisit a few old — goals. Learn how to set — and achieve — goals.


Connect with others.

Loneliness is not simply being alone; it’s a feeling of being without meaningful connection to others. And loneliness is dangerous to your health, especially if you are an older adult. Humans, experts say, have an innate desire for social connection. And research shows that as we age, our need for emotional closeness increases while the number of our social relationships decreases. Consider calling, texting or meeting a friend for a quick cup o’ joe on this year’s leap day or simply chat with a neighbor on a leap day walk — it’s sure to give you a boost. Learn how loneliness can affect your health and how to address it.



People who help others through volunteering have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, reduced stress and lower rates of depression than those who don’t volunteer. Additionally, offering the gift of kindness through volunteering can enhance your social networks and provide a sense of purpose, leading not only to improved mental health but also to increased physical health by buffering stress and reducing your risk of disease. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer in San Diego County and 24 hours on the 29th to do it. Learn about one of our favorites: volunteering at Sharp.



Reading can provide a healthy distraction from life’s day-to-day worries and pressures while at the same time making us smarter, happier and even more empathetic toward others. What’s more, reading can help reduce stress, keep your brain engaged to prevent memory loss or dementia, improve your vocabulary and concentration, and increase empathy and awareness as you learn about different places and people. How about using February’s "gift of time" to take a trip to the local library or pick up a book you’ve yet to crack? Learn the many health benefits of reading.

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