The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors
Studies show America is becoming an Indoors Nation. According to a 1989 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, Americans spent 90% of their time indoors. A more recent study published in 2019 found that less than half the U.S. population doesn’t participate in any outdoor activity; less than 20% got outside at least once a week.
Yet spending time outdoors has a number of health benefits, both physical and mental. Among them are a boost in your Vitamin D levels, which you can get after spending just 20 minutes daily in the sunshine. Vitamin D, in turn, helps your immune system.
And spending time outdoors, particularly time spent exercising in a natural environment surrounded by green space, might have a positive impact on older adults’ mental health and sense of well-being.
So what else might improve from increasing your outdoor activity?
1. It helps you get more physical activity
You don’t necessarily need a gym membership or fancy equipment. You just need to walk out your door. Brisk walking is an excellent, low-impact exercise. If you’re feeling more ambitious, ride a bike, or hit the links – golf is an excellent outdoor sport to play at any age.
2. It reduces stress, eases depression, and lessens anxiety
Both natural light and exercise are proven to help ease the symptoms of depression. Natural light provides Vitamin D, while exercise releases endorphins, which can improve your mood. Being out in the natural world, away from computers, phones, and email, is known to relieve both anxiety and stress. Many therapists suggest exercising with a friend, which can offer an important social connection that human beings inherently crave.
3. It can lower your blood pressure
Believe it or not, research shows spending time in nature, walking in a forest, or even sitting looking at trees, can have a significant calming effect that can lower your blood pressure. Physicians have begun writing their patients actual “nature prescriptions” to spend one hour each week in a local park because of the positive effects on their patients’ blood pressure. The Japanese even have a name for it: shinrin yoku, or forest bathing. It’s not literally bathing in the forest – it means that you spend time immersing yourself in a forest environment as a form of nature therapy.
4. It’s free aromatherapy
Scents like rain, cut grass, fresh flowers, salty ocean air or pine trees have a calming effect on us. Something else worth noting about the ocean and its benefits: It’s said to improve oxygen absorption, skin and muscle health, reduce stress, enhance sleep quality. In case you’re curious, we have seven reasons why you should consider retiring by the beach.
5. It helps you maintain a healthy weight
Spending more time outdoors does encourage more physical activity. But there’s another benefit: Getting outside, particularly in the morning, may help you keep the weight off because light helps balance your energy use.
If you’d like to become more outdoorsy but don’t know where to start, we’ve got a variety of suggestions – and for each idea we offer a range of possibilities, from entry-level easy to a bit more advanced:
Hang a bird feeder.
Perfect if you have limited outdoor space, and a great way to start learning your birds. Once you do, buy a pair of binoculars and a birding book and test your avian knowledge in a nearby park.
Have a picnic.
Start with some fun snacks in a backpack and head to your favorite outdoor spot. Then decide to go a little further. Pack sandwiches or fried chicken and some drinks, and hike from breakfast until you stop for lunch. If you’re feeling really ambitious, load up your bicycle and find a rail-trail, a former railroad line that’s been converted to dedicated, car-free walking and biking paths. The state of Florida has nearly 60 rail-trails to choose from.
Plant some flowers, or a garden if you have the space.
Pots and perennials are all you need to get started. And if you find you enjoy tending and nurturing, start a garden. There’s nothing more rewarding than eating produce you planted yourself.
Go for a walk.
Find a sidewalk and start walking, extending your distance daily. Start a strolling club with friends on a nearby paved path. Then start looking for hiking trails that offer varying degrees of difficulty.
Get on the water.
Visit an indoor or outdoor pool and start jogging in the shallow end. The water will support your body weight, so it’s easier on your joints while offering you a nice bit of resistance. Work your way up to back strokes or laps. If you live in Palm Beach County, you’ve got the Atlantic Ocean practically in your backyard – so go for a long walk on the beach and then take a dip in the water. This area also has a number of rivers, lakes, canals and the Intracoastal Waterway. If you’re comfortable on the water, consider going canoeing or kayaking, or try your hand at paddleboarding.
Find the perfect blend of indoors and outdoors – at The Waterford.
If exploring more of life interests you, we have a great idea: Discover everything The Waterford offers. You’ll enjoy all our services, amenities and common spaces, inside and out, with so much for you to do (without the indoor or outdoor maintenance). And there’s much more to our senior living community than that! Complete and submit the form below, or call us at 1.888.511.5851 for more information.