Here in the DC area, that means the cherry blossoms will be blooming (and earlier than normal, since we had an unusually warm winter); the kids will be rolling the eggs around on the White House Lawn as the Obama family looks on for the last time; and the National Cathedral’s annual Flower Mart will be delighting garden enthusiasts and families as it has done for decades and decades.
Whether you have plans to take in some of the big events around the area or just take a quick stroll through your neighborhood, fresh air is just what we all need after being cooped up inside for the better part of the past couple of months. The expression “a breath of fresh air” might be something we often say without thinking about it too much, but the benefits of a little outdoor activity are very real. And for seniors, it is especially beneficial to get moving and get outdoors.
Here are just some of the mental and physical benefits for seniors of getting outdoors:
- Being outdoors increases your Vitamin D levels: Vitamin D is essential for fighting inflammation, keeping bones healthy, and improving the immune system, all of which are extremely important for keeping older adults in good health. Unfortunately, a large proportion of older Americans have low Vitamin D levels. The good news is spending just 15 minutes a day in the sun can help your body get its daily recommended amount of Vitamin D.
- Being outdoors improves your mood: Studies show that spending time outdoors can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and help you beat the winter blues. Group nature walks have been linked to better mental health and lower levels of stress too. This is especially beneficial for older adults who commonly suffer from anxiety and depression. So regularly spending time in green spaces like parks is an easy way to help seniors feel more relaxed and overall happier.
- Being outdoors improves your concentration levels: Viewing nature has effects that are similar to meditation, according to psychologists. Interacting with nature has been shown to improve memory and attention. The theory here is that getting outside gives the brain a break from everyday over-stimulation and has a restorative effect resulting in improved focus. Why not consider taking the older adults in your life on a trip to the countryside this spring?
- Being outdoors helps you sleep better: Scientists agree that spending too much time in artificial light (think those fluorescents in hospitals or the light emanating from your computer screen) leads to a less restful sleep. By contrast, natural light helps the body better regulate its internal clock making you more likely to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night. Do you or someone you know regularly use sleeping pills? Why not try a little natural light sleep therapy?
As the temps warm and the sun shines more brightly, it is a good idea for all of us to make it part of our daily routines to get outdoors for at least 30 minutes. For older adults, getting out and about can be challenging. But PBE’s Safe Anywhere service has you and your loved ones covered. So, go confidently into the outdoors this spring. Your body will thank you!