A Step in the Right Direction: 8 Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

After being cooped up for so long – first from winter’s cold, then from COVID-19 – we imagine many of you are ready to get outside and enjoy the early summer weather. Did you know that being outside doesn’t just help cure cabin fever, but also lowers your pain levels, boosts your mood, strengthens your relationships and makes you healthier?

“Who knew that spending time outdoors was basically a magic pill for your health?” says Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights. This is especially true for seniors, who often spend a lot of time indoors due to their health, mobility issues or a variety of other factors.

“There are so many reasons why going outside is an integral part of any health plan,” Diane says. “Best of all, it doesn’t require any sort of special equipment, clothing or location. All you have to do is step out your front door to reap the benefits.”

Benefit 1: Physical exercise
Obviously, one of the biggest reasons to get outside? Exercise. From walking to running to biking or yoga in the park, getting outside usually means some form of physical activity. Unlike exercising indoors, being outside really involves all your senses. That’s a great thing for your brain, because different parts of your brain will fire in response to the stimuli it's receiving. Touch, smell, sight, sound ... utilizing all these senses help keep your brain healthy and active. Plus, physical exercise is great for every aspect of your body, from the cardiovascular system to your brain and everything else.

Benefit 2: Psychological lift
Have you ever noticed how you just feel better after you’ve been outside? It’s not just your mind trying to trick you or the “high” you get from exercising. A study from the University of Michigan found that people who went on nature walks had significantly reduced levels of depression and stress and heightened levels of well-being and mental health. Although we aren’t yet able to pinpoint the specific reason as to why this is, the evidence is clear: being outside, breathing in the fresh air and communing with nature makes most people feel happier, calmer and fulfilled. (Maybe Thoreau really was on to something.)

Benefit 3: Better sleep
We all know that when we get physical exercise, we sleep better. That’s obvious. But it also appears that fresh air and being in nature also help us sleep better. There are a variety of reasons for this: the aforementioned stimuli, the regulation of your circadian rhythm, the calmness you feel when being outside ... whatever the reason, you’ll definitely feel more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after a good night’s sleep following a day of being outside.

Benefit 4: Better immune system
Did you know that fresh air has antibacterial properties? It’s true. A number of studies have shown that fresh air and sunshine somehow kills bacteria, leaving the air and space much more sanitary (Florence Nightingale understood this, even if she didn’t know exactly the reason why). More current research has shown that being outside can actually increase your white blood cell count – which boosts your immune system to the nth degree. Better yet, the boosting effects last several days after your outdoor jaunt.

Benefit 5: Higher levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is an essential nutrient that can protect against heart disease, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis and mental health. Sure, you can take a pill for it, but getting vitamin D the “natural” way – from being out in the sun – gives you more benefits than pharmaceuticals can.

Benefit 6: Higher energy levels
Exercise, better sleep, a better immune system and a “recharge” of our personal solar cells automatically makes anyone feel more alive and energetic. Anyone who spends some time outdoors knows that you’re more alert, happier and more energetic after just even 15 minutes in the fresh air. Higher energy levels lead to higher physical activity which leads to better health, which leads to better immune systems ... et cetera, et cetera. As you can see, all the benefits of being outdoors start to roll into each other to create a loop of positive feedback.

Benefit 7: Better health
Just as we said in Benefit 5 – add all these things up, and you find you're a happier, healthier, calmer, more fulfilled you after spending so much time outdoors. Enough said, right? Actually, there’s more – studies have shown that people who are recovering from surgery can get better more quickly, have less pain and spend less time in the hospital when they spend time outdoors. In fact, many pulmonologists recommend short walks after surgery (or, well, in general), to improve vitamin D levels and ward off osteoporosis.

Benefit 8: Better relationships
Being outside boosts relationships as well – it’s a great way to interact with other people and form friendships (and deepen existing relationships). Whether you’re playing sports, part of an exercise group or simply spending time with loved ones outdoors, nature can give you an opportunity to connect and care for one another.

Get up, get out, get outside: Great ideas for spending time in nature
Need some ideas on how and why to get outside? Here’s a list of senior-friendly ideas that will have you lacing up your tennis shoes and heading out your front door:

  • Join a walking group – you’ll be social and get exercise at the same time.
  • Garden at your home or join a community garden to get a little light exercise, entertainment and some vitamin D
  • Have a picnic on your porch or in the park.
  • Do yoga outdoors, either by yourself or with friends.
  • Go swimming – it’s nearly summer, after all.

For more information about the benefits of being outside, or to learn how we help our residents Live Well. Age Well. Be Well! every day, contact us at 224-300-4760.

Live Well Beyond Ordinary at Aspired Living®

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day® Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!℠ programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand-new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 224-300-4760.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes, and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.