You already know that things like a balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep are important to stay healthy, but if you’re like a lot of people, you may’ve overlooked the role of getting outdoors in maintaining your health.
If you’re a senior, venturing outside of the house is just what the doctor ordered in many cases and may even help prevent future health issues. A number of studies have demonstrated the positive impacts of being outdoors on older adults’ health.
With winter in the rearview and warmer weather on its way, there’s no better time than now to reap the body and mind benefits, including those listed here, of getting outside.
1. Being outside is a mood-booster.
There’s just something about being outside and enjoying the sunshine, a warm breeze, or the smell of fresh-cut grass that causes innate pleasure and enhances your mood.
Light in itself tends to elevate a person’s mood, and in almost every case there’s more natural light available outdoors than there is inside the house. Meanwhile, physical activity often relaxes and cheers people up, so exercising outdoors has double the benefit.
Another positive effect that exercise has on senior health is that it reduces the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your blood, while also lowering your blood pressure and pulse rate.
Additionally, researchers in England say that exercising even five minutes outdoors is enough to improve mood and self-esteem.
2. You’ll exercise more.
Not that you have to be outdoors to exercise – millions of people work out in gyms or at home using following along to videos or on at-home stationary bikes and the like. But research suggests that those who get outside tend to be more active overall.
Indeed, rather than spending a beautiful day sitting at the computer or in front of the television, why not spend it outside walking, gardening, biking, working in your yard, or other activities that keep your body moving?
3. You’ll increase your levels of vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D important for senior health? Research shows that this vitamin may have greater disease-fighting powers than others. For example, studies have shown that ‘D’ provides protection against heart attacks, strokes, depression, cancer, and other serious health issues, according to a statement from Harvard Medical School.
The good news is that you can get much of the vitamin D you need just by being outside in the sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes a day. That’s because sunlight hitting the skin leads to the creation of the biologically active form of vitamin D.
There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to vitamin D, however:
- Vitamin D production is lower for people who are over 65. Skin color also affects vitamin D levels (African Americans have about half the levels of vitamin D than Caucasians).
- While providing needed protection, many sunscreens block UVB light – which helps generate vitamin D in the skin. However, being outside while supplementing with vitamin D pills will help keep your levels high.
4. Being outside can improve concentration and cognitive health.
If you have trouble concentrating, getting out in nature may offer a solution. In one study, people who took a walk in nature scored higher on a proofreading task than those who walked through a city or who did neither.
A recent study conducted by the University of Kansas showed that even older adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from frequent walks outdoors. The study found that even brisk walks could lead to better physical functioning and slower cognitive decline among early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.
Additionally, being in nature – and even just looking at pictures of nature – helps restore mental energy. Natural beauty may also elicit feelings of awe, which can in turn help ease mental fatigue.
5. Getting outdoors helps boost immunity.
Multiple studies have shown that being outside boosts while blood cell counts and that the effect can last for several days. In a 2005 study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, spinal surgery patients were found to have less pain and needed fewer medications when exposed to natural light.
Clearly, getting outdoors provides many positive benefits to senior health – physically, mentally, and terms of long-term health. With spring now upon us, there’s no better time to get outdoors and give your health an overall boost.