People of all ages can benefit from the natural beauty of the great outdoors! Spending time outside can have physical and mental health benefits. While you may have concerns about an aging loved one’s mobility, outdoor excursions don’t have to be long or out of the way.
Benefits of Going Outdoors for Seniors
With summer right around the corner, understand why older adults should spend more time outdoors.
1. Sunlight and Vitamin D
It takes roughly 15 minutes of sunlight exposure to get your daily dose of vitamin D. For seniors, this nutrient works to lessen risks of osteoporosis, cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Vitamin D can also improve feelings of depression and help your body better absorb calcium, which helps strengthen bones, teeth, nails and muscles.
Contrary to common myths, sunscreen does not fully block vitamin D exposure, so you should continue to venture outdoors wearing effective sun protection.
2. Physical Health Benefits
Going outside means less time spent in front of the TV and electronic devices! While this can help children burn off energy, it offers different benefits for older adults:
- Outdoor activity helps preserve muscle mass, which strengthens the heart and lungs.
- Movement helps reduce symptoms and the progression of arthritis. It also lessens diabetes risk, respiratory issues and cardiovascular problems.
- Time spent outdoors has been known to positively affect sleeping habits and immune health, which can help your body better fight off illnesses.
- Certain outdoor activities help seniors burn calories, improve flexibility, strengthen muscles and balance to reduce fall risks.
3. Memory and Energy Levels
Studies have found that spending time in nature can influence energy levels and memory in older adults, including improved attention span and information retention. Research from the University of Michigan found that going outdoors has benefits similar to meditation. Older adults reported a 20 percent longer attention span after spending one hour outdoors!
4. Mental Wellbeing and Reducing Stress
Studies have also found that exposure to the outdoors can improve communication between the body’s cells. In terms of mental health and wellbeing, this process can have a rippling effect:
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
- Boosts mood and overall sense of happiness
- Lessens mental fatigue by offering a change of pace from the indoors
- Improves blood flow to the brain, which increases serotonin levels
- Calms blood pressure, heart rate and slows the production of stress hormones
Ways Seniors Can Get Outdoors
You don’t have to plan a long hike or kayaking trip to experience the benefits of the outdoors. Instead:
- Take your daily workout outdoors
- Walk around the block
- Bike around your neighborhood
- Spend time gardening
- Relax in the backyard
- Plan a hike close to home on an even trail
- Partake in golf, bocce, shuffleboard or another game typically played outside
- If you swim, head to the local outdoor pool
- Pick up a hobby that takes you outdoors, like photography or birdwatching
- Join a nature group for seniors
- Schedule a picnic with friends and family
Consider participating in our recreational activities at West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center! To learn more about what we offer, contact us today.
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