With spring just around the corner, there is no better time to get outside. Being in nature and enjoying time outside has so many benefits for physical and mental health - especially for older adults and seniors.
Outdoor spaces have the power to help improve health and overall psychological wellbeing, can bring a sense of connectedness, and boost both mood and cognitive ability. Overall, spending time in nature can have a profound and positive effect on a number of aspects of our lives, so getting out in the natural world is an important part of our daily lives and routines.
How Does Being in Nature Help Physical Health?
Outdoor exercise and doing physical activity in nature can have a number of positive health outcomes. Getting your heart rate up and working your body outside means getting the added benefits of nature, as well as the pluses that come with keeping fit such as boosting immunity, reducing blood pressure, lower body fat counts, and increasing mobility.
Not only does staying active support overall good health, but exercise also produces endorphins, associated with positive feelings and overall happiness. Fresh air and sunshine are good for your body. Sun has vitamin D, an essential vitamin that can help boost moods, improve immune system health, reduce inflammation, and help with minor health problems.
How Does Being Outdoors Help Improve Mental Health?
Nature and happiness go hand in hand. It may not come as a surprise that gardens, green spaces and natural environments are linked with a sense of peace and calm, but research has now shown that natural settings can have noticeable mental health benefits.
According to the American Psychological Association, the mental health benefits of nature have been linked to positive mental health, an overall increase in happiness, a sense of meaning, subjective wellbeing and increased self esteem.
Nature-based activities can also help reduce anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness or isolation. Psychological science research studies performed by Harvard Medical School showed that green space helped to reduce stress levels. In as little as 20 minutes, stress hormones like cortisol were lowered, indicating a connection between a nature experience and a reduction of stress.
What are the Cognitive Benefits of Green Spaces and Blue Spaces?
Healthcare research has also found cognitive benefits of spending time in nature. Natural light, green spaces like gardens, forests, meadows or courtyards, or blue spaces such as lakes, oceans etc. can all have a positive effect on brain stimulation and cognitive function.
The effects of nature on the brain include attention restoration, and increased focus, according to the Nature Journal. In a research paper published in 2022, studies indicated that individuals that spent time in natural environments found “improve[ed] working memory capacity, and restore[d] directed attention.”
What are Some Easy Ways to Get the Benefits of Spending Time in Nature?
Even in urban environments, greenery, gardens and green spaces can have positive and calming effects on moods and minds. This is one of the major reasons that urban areas are designed with parks, lakes, green areas or gardens to create an opportunity for enjoying the outdoors even in a city or highly populated area.
Ways to Spend More Time Outdoors:
When it comes to getting the health benefits of being outside, there are a lot of easy ways you can enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and nature. Seniors of all ages and abilities can find ways to get the benefits of nature.
You don't have to go on a mountain hike or participate in forest bathing to get the benefits of being outdoors. A simple walk or stroll around a courtyard, garden, walking path or lake is a great way to stay active and soak up all the great things nature has to offer. Seniors can join walking groups to help keep them motivated, which has the added bonus of social stimulation and new friendships with peers.
Gardening is one of the most popular activities for seniors. It is a low-impact physical activity that helps older adults stay active, and also offers the perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy green space. On top of the benefits of spending time outdoors, gardening also provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement as you see your plant or blooms growing, thriving, and producing life.
To double up on the benefits of being in the outdoors, seniors can enjoy some age-appropriate exercise classes. Activities such as Tai Chi are calming activities that keep the body moving, and flexible. This low-impact activity is meditative and calming, and can be done outside on a lawn or in a garden, so you can enjoy the beauty of nature while you move.
Birdwatching is an especially good activity for older adults. This rewarding activity is a calm and peaceful pastime that encourages spending time in nature, but is also well suited for adults of all fitness and mobility levels. Seniors can relax outside, and enjoy the pleasure of spotting new bird species, or regulars in their area.
Spending less time surrounded by screens and electronics, and embracing spending time in nature has so many positive effects on our bodies, minds and moods. From combating isolation to fighting depression and anxiety, to increasing attention deficit and helping our brains focus, surrounding yourself with nature or green and blue spaces can help overall health, wellbeing, longevity and quality of life.
It doesn’t have to be a wilderness hike or major excursion, but simply spending time outside breathing in fresh air, soaking up vitamin D, and letting your mind relax in a natural space is a great way to find peace and tranquility, and help your body and mind stay happy and healthy.
Learn more about the activities programs including outdoor activities, gardening, and walking groups at a Pacific Senior Living community in your area. Reach out to us for more information!