The Benefits of the Great Outdoors

Posted on: April 21, 2022

After a cold and snowy winter, the initial hints of springtime weather make most people anxious to spend time outdoors. Fresh air, warm sunshine, and awakening foliage go a long way toward curing months-long feelings of boredom and isolation—as well as recent sheltering-in-place frustrations.

Experts point out that spending time outside offers several physical and mental health benefits. And yet, by some estimates, average Americans spend 90 percent of their lives indoors.

Older adults, it turns out, are even less likely than those from other age groups to venture outdoors. Some seniors cite a lack of mobility or limiting health conditions, while others fail to appreciate the multiple advantages of being outside.

Take vitamin D, for example. Vitamin D helps protect us against the effects of diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, and depression. But as we age, we tend to generate vitamin D more slowly. Luckily, exposing our skin for short periods to the sun’s ultraviolet B light prompts our bodies to create vitamin D.

While you should wear sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors for an extended length of time, limited exposure to 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight a few times a week can help produce the vitamin D your body requires.

Heightened Vitality and Happier Moods

Being outdoors during daylight hours can also lift our moods. Psychological studies prove that time outside helps us feel more lively and energized while providing us with a greater sense of personal well-being.

“Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses,” says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

“Nature is something within which we flourish,” adds Ryan, “so having it be more a part of our lives is critical.”

According to Ryan’s research, spending as little as 20 minutes outdoors every day can noticeably improve energy levels.

Other Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

With so much available to do outside, it’s hard to avoid being active. From going for a walk to tending a garden, increasing your physical activity helps reduce boredom, enhances happiness, and improves your overall health.

Research also shows that exposure to natural light aids us in recovering from illnesses and injuries—often with less pain. And time outdoors presents us with expanded opportunities to socialize with others.

Health and Wellness at Otterbein SeniorLife

At Otterbein’s many locations throughout Ohio and in Indiana, our residents have numerous opportunities to get outside. Whether they’re walking through our beautiful campuses with amenities like landscaped ponds, nearby golf courses, and much more, or participating in a group fitness class at our Life Enrichment Centers, there’s always something to do here.

Learn more about health and wellness at Otterbein, by downloading our free guide.

Read Nine Degrees of Wellness