Importance of Outdoor Activity for Older Adults
Posted: August 3, 2022
Health & Wellness
Importance of Outdoor Activity for Older Adults
Spending time outside is linked to cognitive health benefits, improved mood and increased emotional well-being. Being in nature can promote happiness and better health, regardless of how we choose to spend our time outdoors. As we age, the risk of physical and health conditions increases, making outdoor physical activity an essential part of healthy aging.
Keep reading to learn the benefits of seniors being outdoors, the importance of light exercise for older adults and outdoor activities to help you or a loved one get started.
We’ve collected some of the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outside for seniors:
Physical Health Benefits
Spending time in green spaces like parks can benefit the body in various ways:
Increased vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone and immune health, brain cell activity and muscle function and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, premature death, stress and high blood pressure. Just 15 minutes of sunshine two or three times a week can provide your recommended dose of vitamin D.
More energy: Studies show that going outdoors can boost our energy and make us feel more alive. Green spaces might even motivate us to get active and exercise, supporting our overall physical health.
Boosted memory: Studies show that time spent outside is associated with changes in the part of the brain responsible for executive functions like working memory and selective attention. More time outdoors might also result in improved creativity as well. Older adults can appreciate improved cognitive function just by spending time in nature.
Mental Health Benefits
Participating in nature walks or other forms of outdoor exercise is linked to more positive feelings and better mental health. Older adults with limited mobility can benefit from just getting outside and enjoying a change of scenery. Experts recommend that older adults spend time outdoors regularly. The relaxation that nature provides can increase feelings of happiness and tranquility.
The mental health benefits of spending time outdoors include:
Less depression and anxiety: Older adults who spend time outdoors may experience less anxiety and depressive symptoms. People who bike, run or walk in natural settings like parks have a reduced risk of mental health problems than those who exercise indoors.
Reduced stress: Being outside can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, reducing anxiety and inviting feelings of peace and calmness. Lower cortisol can also lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease like muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure.
More social connection: Parks and trails with common spaces offer an environment for neighbors to meet, which can help improve community connections. These social connections can significantly impact a person’s mood and combat loneliness and isolation in older adults.
The Importance of Light Exercise for Older Adults
Combining the benefits of being outdoors with light exercise can help older adults enjoy a better quality of life. Exercises that involve strength, aerobics and flexibility components can promote better mental and physical health for older adults while improving brain function.
Some of the benefits of light exercise for older adults include:
Greater independence: Regular physical activity can help older adults maintain their independence. Research shows that those who exercise are less likely to depend on others later in life. Physical activity can increase mobility and reduce the need for help with tasks like walking, bathing, cooking or eating.
Disease delay and prevention: Incorporating regular physical activity into their lifestyle can help older adults prevent serious health complications while reducing symptoms for those already living with them.
Improved cognitive function: Research shows a link between exercise and sharper mental function in older adults. Simple exercises can improve a person’s focus and concentration while helping limit the symptoms of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and depression.
Common Outdoor Activities for Seniors
Incorporating a few light exercises into one’s daily routine can present various mental and physical health benefits. If your loved one enjoys aerobic exercise like walking or running, going outdoors for these workouts can offer even more benefits.
However, traditional exercise is only one way to get out in nature. Other common outdoor activities for older adults include:
Gardening: Gardening is a wonderful way for older adults to get exercise while enjoying nature all around them. Your loved one may consider creating a natural area in their backyard to attract native bird or butterfly species or planting a fruit and vegetable garden. If they’re living in an assisted living community, they may appreciate a nature or gardening club to exercise and enjoy the benefits of green spaces.
Photography: Photography is an easy and enjoyable activity, great for older adults hoping to spend time outdoors chasing the ideal photo. Finding new subjects to shoot can encourage curiosity and forming community bonds. This hobby is also an excellent way for older adults to channel creativity and express themselves.
Outdoor community events: In the spring, summer and autumn, many communities offer outdoor events like concerts, festivals and farmers markets. These activities are a great opportunity for connecting with neighbors and getting some outdoor exercise. Browse craft fairs with friends and meet new people while appreciating the social, physical and mental benefits.
Swimming: This low-impact activity is one of the best ways for older adults to exercise. Swimming can help clear the mind and exercise the whole body.
Walking pets: Taking care of pets gives older adults an excellent way to spend time outside with furry friends. Going on a walk with a pet can be an excellent mood-boosting workout.
Appreciate Outdoor Enrichment at Sugar Fork Crossing
Regular outdoor physical activity presents various benefits for people of all ages, especially older adults. No matter the activity, research supports nature as a great way to boost creativity, energy and physical and mental well-being.
Sugar Fork Crossing is an assisted living neighborhood with an array of Rhythms Life Enrichment programs, from exercise to gardening to outdoor sports. We’ve designed our community to help older adults feel supported and welcomed in a space that promotes an active, healthy lifestyle.
To learn more about our award-winning assisted living community or to schedule a tour, contact us today.