Spending time outdoors has proven to provide benefits that improve the overall quality of life. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget, and we find ourselves spending more and more time indoors as we age, so it’s important to make it a priority. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of getting outdoors for seniors plus get ideas on ways to spend time doing things you love outside.
Here’s how getting outdoors can improve can help you live better.
When it comes to outdoor activities, the first benefits that come to mind might be physical. But the truth is, spending time outdoors is just as good for your mental health. Getting regular exposure to sunlight has been shown to boost mood and cognitive functioning. At the same time, common outdoor activities like running, hiking, and biking also have a positive effect on mental health.
Exposing yourself to a daily dose of natural light is one of the best ways to sync up your circadian rhythm for a good night’s sleep. That means falling asleep easier and waking up feeling fresh. Spending time outdoors also helps work the muscles in your legs and core, which can help you sleep longer and more deeply.
While it’s not always easy to fit another to-do into your daily routine, research shows that spending at least 30 minutes outdoors daily can reduce stress. There are a few different factors at work here, but one of the main ones has to do with our body’s stress hormone, cortisol. Getting fresh and natural light helps lower the amount of cortisol in the body, relieving you of everyday stress.
Of course, improving your quality of sleep will have a positive impact on your waking hours too, helping you feel more refreshed. However, fatigue isn’t always caused by lack of sleep, but can be related to low levels of vitamin D, lack of exercise, and a range of other factors. If you’re experiencing regular fatigue, spending time outside is one simple remedy to consider. In the short term, it can help perk you up and keep you alert while improving your mood in the long run.
Depending on where you spend your outdoor time, you may be able to fight feelings of isolation, loneliness, and lack of connection. Even something as simple as a walk around the block can allow you to connect with neighbors. Longer trips to the beach or a favorite hiking trail might even be a chance to make new friends. You can also schedule outings with an established social group to double up on the fun!
As we know, getting natural light is one of the main ways we can stimulate our bodies to produce vitamin D. But did you know that this can also help boost our immunity? It’s true–regular outdoor time can increase our white blood cell count, helping our bodies fight off common illnesses. It can also help prevent or delay several diseases that commonly affect older adults, like dementia, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.
Even if you’re not worried about a specific disease, there’s no denying the health benefits that come with spending time outdoors. Between the mental health benefits and boost to your physical well-being, getting outside regularly will even increase your overall life expectancy. The key is making sure to get enough time in. One study suggests that we should spend at least 120 minutes per week outside for maximum health benefits.
By reducing stress and stimulating the brain, outdoor time can have a positive impact on both memory and concentration. It might even be able to restaurant cognitive faculties to older adults if enjoyed regularly. In addition to memory and concentration, spending time outdoors can also boost creativity.
All doctors agree that outdoor time is good for the body and mind, but exactly how much time we should spend outdoors depends largely on individual needs, as well as mobility and overall physical health.
Doctors recommend we spend at least 120 minutes outside each week to enjoy all of the health benefits. That means 20 minutes each day, on average, is enough for lifelong health and happiness.
Looking for new or creative ways to spend some time outside? Here’s a list of ideas we’ve come up with that you will be sure to enjoy.
Walking is only a great way to get outside, it also provides additional health benefits that help you live a healthier and happier life. Try exploring new routes, see what’s in your neighborhood, or opt for a beach, park, or nature trail.
Bird watching is a popular hobby that requires you to spend time outdoors. It’s also a great social activity where you can meet new people who share similar interests. Try looking online for bird-watching groups or clubs in your local area.
Tending to a garden requires daily upkeep and can be very therapeutic. Try doing a little research first on what grows best in your climate and in which seasons. You can grow plants, flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and even legumes. There’s nothing better than harvesting your food from seed to table.
Mix things up and take your lunch outdoors. It can be as simple as taking your already-made lunch a few steps outside to a bench or packing a basket full of your favorite snacks to a local park. Picnics are also great to enjoy with others.
Exercise is great, but even better if you can do it outdoors. Take a look in your area for classes held outdoors. You can also check out jogging, hiking, and biking groups. All of these can be a great way to get in your regular dose of vitamin D, connect with other fitness enthusiasts, and improve your brain health.
Try to get creative next time you visit with your grandkids. Rather than a quiet chat indoors, try taking a walk to a local park or even sitting out on the back patio. Kids love having a chance to run, jump, and shout, and soon you’ll be feeling younger again too!
Local events are a great way to get out and about. They’re full of entertainment and activities. Check your local paper or do a quick Google search to find dates for farmer’s markets, festivals, concerts, and art shows in your area. Depending on where you live, these may be seasonal events.
Swimming is a great, low-impact, exercise that is safe for the joints. If you have access to an outdoor swimming pool see if there are any water aerobic classes you can attend. This is a fun way to meet new people, get exercise, and get a little vitamin D.
Capture the beauty of the outdoors and a new hobby. Photography is a great way to look at nature from a new perspective, spend some time outdoors, and even get a little exercise. You don’t need to be a professional, even if you’re using your phone…take a walk around and see what you can discover!
Seasonal fruit picking can be a fun activity for any age and a great way to get some exercise, spend time outdoors, and even save money on fresh produce.
Switch up your scenery a bit and visit a new park or take a walk through local botanical gardens. When you explore new areas, you can learn new things, and it can be more entertaining than your routine paths.
Instead of listening to music or podcasts while you’re inside. Take a step outdoors. These can bring more entertainment to previously mundane strolls, pass the time, lighten your mood, and even educate you.
Sometimes, the best way to get in some extra outdoor time is to work it into your routine. Even something as simple as a phone call can be a good excuse to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors. Try to schedule calls with loved ones on days that will be warm and sunny. You can even talk while enjoying a brisk walk.
If it’s not possible to get outside due to limited mobility, you can still reap the rewards of the outdoors by spending time near a window that lets in natural light. Set up an area close by where you can rest, eat, read, drink tea, or do other activities that you enjoy.
In the end, it’s not how you spend your outdoor time, just as long as you get plenty of fresh air and sunshine regularly. While some people might prefer a light jog a few times a week, others might like a quiet day at the park instead. The important thing is to find outdoor activities that work for you, so you can enjoy all the health benefits they bring.