June is Great Outdoors Month, just in time for summer! During the summertime, there is no shortage of outdoor activities for every age or physical condition in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
The benefits of getting outside, even for a few minutes every day has numerous benefits for older adults. Not only does it encourage physical activity, but it also boosts emotional health and offers vital nutrients such as vitamin D which is most effective when it’s obtained by sunlight. Spending time in nature helps people of any age, including seniors and older adults feel more connected and refreshed to the world around us. Keep reading below to learn more about the benefits of getting outside, as well as a few critical outdoor safety tips.
• Promotes physical health.
Getting outside and taking a walk, gardening, bird-watching, or other low-impact activity can do wonders for physical health. This is especially important for older adults and good physical health is directly linked to a longer lifespan and a reduced risk of common health ailments such as high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.
• Promotes mental health.
Keeping the mind engaged and stimulated can help reduce symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s, as well as depression, and anxiety. When you’re outside, there is often a lot to see in nature, which stimulates the mind.
• Promotes socialization and helps reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Whether your aging loved one has a devoted, compassionate caregiver that can get them outside and engaged in socialization, or meet new people on their regular walk, getting outside opens up opportunities to meet new people. This is not only great for mental and emotional health but encourages older adults to get outside and makes it more likely they will if they have a friend, family member, or caregiver to go with them.
• Helps reduce and eliminate fatigue.
For many, staying holed up inside can cause feelings of being stir-crazy and craving time to get outside and explore. This extends to reducing feelings of fatigue, as fresh air can be an energizing force. Nature often provides feelings of awe and wonder, which can help reduce mental and physical fatigue.
• Helps boost the immune system.
Our immune systems are our first lines of defense against illnesses. Being outside can not only give you distance from people who may be sick in the home or care community, but can promote an increase in white-blood-cell count, in turn improving immunity against viruses and bacteria.
• Improved sleep.
Physical activity can help battle insomnia and can improve sleep. A good night’s rest does wonders for the body physically, mentally, and emotionally and also promotes a healthy immune system.
Summer Safety Tips:
- Stay hydrated. Many heat-related illnesses can be reduced and prevented with adequate water intake.
- Don't push too hard. Although physical activity is vital to keeping older adults healthy, it's also a good idea to be mindful of their limits. Rest when needed.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Here in the mountains of Western North Carolina, there are often swings in temperatures and weather from one location to the next. Be prepared with extra clothes and dress for the weather.
- Tell someone where you're going. This is especially important if you plan on going out and hitting the trails or a place you or your aging loved one hasn't been through before. By telling someone where you are, if you get lost, it will help guide authorities on the general area they may need to search.