doctor’s orders: get outside

Spending time outside is important. It allows you to take a breath, relax, and reset with a better frame of mind. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re at a park, in the woods, or in your backyard, being in nature can have a calming effect and improve your mental and physical health, especially when it’s combined with exercise.

While it’s true that we all need to do everything we can to protect our health during the pandemic, it is also vital for us to stay physically and mentally active. After a year of quarantining and social distancing, there’s never been a better time, and bigger need, for the benefits of nature. The key is to find outdoor activities that allow for appropriate social distancing and other safety measures.

Here are several suggestions that fit the description:

Walk away the winter blues. The older population has been especially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, being at higher risk of serious illness. Additionally, according to a KFF/Medicare analysis, one in four seniors reported episodes of anxiety or depression during this time. Studies have shown that being outdoors lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s a marker for stress. Walking around the community is an easy way for you to keep active. If the weather is pleasant and it’s possible to avoid crowds, a walk around your neighborhood can help reduce a feeling of restlessness and deliver mood- and immune-boosting benefits.

Get a boost of vitamin D. You can improve your health just by soaking up the sun. Vitamin D regulates your immune system and can help battle depression. According to the National Library of Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health), an estimated 40 percent of U.S. men and women are vitamin D deficient, which can be linked to osteoporosis, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. An adequate intake of vitamin D for adults through age 70 is 600 international units (IUs) daily. For ages 71 and older, the recommended daily intake is 800 IU. However, many adults with low vitamin D may need supplementation at a higher dose which should be discussed with a physician.

Take a breath of fresh air. You really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make you feel calmer and more relaxed. A deep breath of fresh air can clear your lungs, give you more energy, and improve your circulation. Spending more time outdoors is also linked to improved levels of concentration, creativity, and mental clarity.

Finally, bring the indoors out. You can take indoor activities such as board games, crosswords or puzzles outside for fresh air and a change of scenery. Socializing with friends outdoors, by taking a walk or sitting together, can be safe and very enjoyable if you socially distance. In settings where social distancing isn’t possible, then wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene will help you enjoy your time outside in the safest possible way.

Whatever you choose to do, going outdoors can have a positive effect on your outlook and overall health.

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