During the late spring and summer in Texas, being outside of the comforting reach of air conditioning can be almost unthinkable. But as the calendar turns to fall and early winter, it’s the perfect time to start enjoying the weather the rest of the country wishes it had. But what makes the great outdoors so great?
Research shows there are important benefits of being outdoors for seniors. This blog post will explore the pluses of being physically active outdoors and show how spending as little as 30 minutes a day is one of the easiest — and most enjoyable — ways to improve your health and wellness. Benefits include:
- Increased vitamin D: Being out in the sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes can lead to healthier levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to weak bones and fractures, inflammation, higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancer. But boosting your vitamin D has been shown to help reduce your risk of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart attack. It’s also been connected to increased energy and improved mood.
- Better overall physical health: Research has indicated that living in a neighborhood with lots of trees can help improve your cardiovascular and metabolic health, as well as lower your blood pressure and stress levels.
- Less chronic illness and pain: Studies have shown that people who spend more time in green spaces and forests may be at lower risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions, including cancer and respiratory problems. In addition, people who interact with nature report better sleep habits than those who don’t spend time outdoors.
- Mood boost: A 2015 study found walking in a natural setting could be an alternative to medications for older adults who are dealing with life circumstances that could lead to depression, such as loss of a loved one or serious illness.
- Improved memory: Spending time outside is linked to lower stress levels, higher levels of concentration, creativity and improved mental clarity. In fact, it’s been shown to have similar effects on your brain and body as meditating. Although the exact science behind it is unclear, relaxing in a green space results in a lower heart rate and blood pressure.
- Longer life: A 2016 study found people whose homes were surrounded by vegetation lived 12% longer. And of the 100,000 women in the study, those who lived by trees and plants had a 34% lower rate of death from respiratory illness, and a 13% lower rate of cancer death. Plus, seniors who spend more time outdoors get more chances to socialize with their neighbors which can offer a variety of benefits that could help seniors live longer including improved health and greater happiness.
The Benefits of Getting Started
Now that you know more about the benefits of being outdoors for seniors, the next step is figuring out where to begin. There are a number of great outdoor activities, but here are a few suggestions to help get you started.
- Gardening: Research has found that gardening is a great way for seniors to burn calories and increase flexibility. Classified as a “moderate” level of physical activity, gardening has been shown to help older adults reduce their risk for heart attack and stroke, lower stress levels, and improve their immune systems.
- Hiking/walking: Going on regular hikes can help build stronger bones and muscles and improve heart health. Hiking can also improve your sense of balance, which can reduce your risk of falling.
- Outdoor activities: Swimming, golf, tennis, shuffleboard and bocce can help improve your physical, mental and emotional health in numerous ways.
- Photography: You don’t have to be an award-winning photographer to enjoy taking pictures. And since everyone has a camera on their phone, it’s easier than ever to capture images of flowers, architecture, and more. Just follow your curiosity around your neighborhood and see what you can find.
- Relax: Being outside can often be enough to enjoy some amazing health benefits. So try to find ways to relax outdoors — go for a picnic, enjoy a meal outside, find a comfortable spot to read, or sit in your favorite garden or by a fountain.
Live to Your Full Potential
At The Buckingham, our health and wellness programs are based on the research-based, nationally renowned Masterpiece Living® initiative and its four key components: physical fitness and spiritual, intellectual and emotional health. As Houston’s premier retirement community, our culture is second to none — with top-notch services and amenities, and a world of opportunity for you to explore. We’re also the only community in the area with multiple outdoor courtyards, walking paths and bird watching area. You can learn more about our friendly senior living lifestyle by contacting us here.