“Nature is fuel for the soul. Often, when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” – Dr. Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester
Being outside is more than a change of scenery – it can be good for us! There are many benefits of being outside for seniors. Spending time in safe outdoor spaces engages our senses, calms our nervous systems, and helps us feel connected to our community and the natural world.
Remember that sunshine stimulates our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is needed for bone growth and restoration.[i] That means being outside is especially valuable as we get older and bone density declines. Just make sure to apply sunscreen even in winter months!
3 ways to get more time outdoors
Here are three ideas for increasing your outside time and amplifying the benefits.
Remember to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new activity or increasing your activity level, especially if you or your loved one has respiratory or mobility issues.
1. Take indoor activities outside.
Almost anything you can do inside you can do outside. If puzzles, arts and crafts, reading, or card and board games are a favorite indoor activity, bring it outside. Outdoor dining is also an option. Enjoy your morning coffee or a meal on the porch or patio – or plan a picnic.
2. Move your body in nature.
When the weather’s right, skip the gym and exercise outdoors. Walking or swimming outside are obvious choices, but you can also do low-impact activities like yoga, pilates, or tai chi outdoors. Play favorite games like softball, horseshoes, bocce ball, pickleball, croquet, and badminton. You can even do your morning stretching and balance exercises on the porch or in the yard. Find more opportunities for outdoor recreation through your local parks and recreation department and senior center.
3. Embrace the season.
Seasonal activities give us added incentive to get outside. Farmers’ markets and pick-your-own outings are great ways to take a leisurely stroll and source some delicious seasonal foods. Depending on the season, you can pick apples, oranges, cherries, strawberries, and peaches. Check out these recipe ideas.
Pro tip: You can get even more upside from being outdoors by recreating with other people. Socializing with family and friends or with others who share your interests deepens our sense of community and security. Review these safety tips for staying safe and well outside.
Try any of these suggestions or use them as inspiration for developing your own list of outdoor activities.
[i] National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/