Most of us are on-board with the notion that being outside is good for us. We see the many commercials and advertisements of retired folks and senior citizens walking, jogging, and simply basking in the beauty of Mother Nature and we get it. What we may not “get” quite as well is the significant “why” behind it. Consider these science-based benefits:
Improved overall health
When we spend time outside, we can improve our overall immunity by boosting our white blood cell count. We can also increase our level of Vitamin D. This is particularly important for seniors as having a sufficient level of Vitamin D translates into a lower risk for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and heart attack. A mere 15 minutes basking in those sunny rays can get you to the recommended daily dose of this essential vitamin. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Reduced chronic illness and pain
While time spent outdoors won’t cure a chronic disease, many studies suggest that it can reduce pain and stress levels. This, in turn, boosts the immune system in ways that help treatments to work and bodies to heal. And on that note, my favorite piece of science-based research is this: hospital patients healed faster and experienced fewer complications when they were able to look out upon nature during their recovery.
Improved mental health
Experts concur that nature heals and protects us in other ways as well. For example, seniors who regularly spend time outdoors experience less anxiety and depression, while improving their mood and their overall feeling of happiness. Taking one’s exercise outside (instead of on that indoor cycling machine!) has been shown to reduce the risk of mental health problems, lowering levels of depression and stress. Even for folks whose mobility may be compromised, time spent out of doors in a natural setting provides welcome relaxation along with fresh air and sunshine. Research from the University of Michigan found that “Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating…People don’t have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January.” My only question: What are you waiting for?
Improved memory and concentration
Memory retention is a topic of great interest to many seniors as short-term memory becomes more challenging. While there is every good reason to invest in tools and challenges that support memory and improve concentration, here’s something else you can do: spend more time in nature! Once again, The University of Michigan found that “memory performance and attention span” can improve by as much as 20 percent simply by spending 60 minutes outside.
Improved energy levels
Even with the energy boost that a well-timed nap can supply, many of us would like to find other ways to increase our energy levels. Well, you guessed it: spend time outside in nature and you are likely to feel more alive and to experience an energy boost.
And one more thing…
So far, we know that the mere act of getting outside has the power to boost our immunity, reduce physical pain, make us happier and less stressed, and improve our memory, concentration, and energy levels. In case you need one more reason to get outside, consider this: doing so may just increase your longevity. A major Harvard University study found that people live up to 12 years longer, on average, when they live near trees and other forms of vegetation.
I hope to see you out there – in the great outdoors.