Spring is an opportune time for older adults to get active outdoors. Walking, gardening and doing other physical activities outside are good for your physical and mental health, and these provide additional emotional healing benefits through exposure to nature and sunlight. Staying hydrated, managing seasonal allergies and taking precautions to avoid too much sun exposure will allow you to enjoy outdoor activities safely and comfortably.
Older adults tend to slow down and spend more time indoors during the winter; however, spring’s arrival is an opportunity to rejuvenate your overall wellness by getting active outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.
Here are six ways to reap the health benefits of a spring tune-up:
- Get out in the garden. Gardening is an activity that promotes overall health and quality of life, physical strength, fitness, flexibility, cognitive ability and socialization, according to McMaster University.
- Soak up warm sunshine safely. Spending time outdoors in warm, sunny spring weather improves mood and cognition, reported a Psychological Science study. Moderate exposure to sunlight for older adults, who are at risk for low vitamin D, strengthens bones and may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, hip fractures, stroke and heart attack, according to Cleveland Clinic. It also protects against depression and insomnia. Wear sunscreen, a wide brim hat, long sleeves and sunglasses to avoid too much sun exposure.
- Walk outdoors in nature each day. People who exercised outdoors in natural environments reported feeling revitalized and energetic, and experienced less tension, confusion, anger and depression than those who exercised indoors, according to an Environmental Science and Technology study. They enjoyed outdoor activity more and were more likely to repeat it.
- Lighten up your diet with spring seasonal foods. Many fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits such as asparagus, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, peppers, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and strawberries are in season in the spring. Eating seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to Dietitians of Canada.
- Take care of seasonal allergies. Spring is the worst season for allergies, according to the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. If pollen is a trigger, keep doors and windows closed to keep it out, and wear wraparound sunglasses when outside, advises University of Toronto. Also, ask your doctor about the most appropriate allergy medications to avoid possible side effects, such as drowsiness and confusion.
- Drink more water when exercising. Older adults who drink plenty of water after being physically active outdoors avoid dehydration and reap more cognitive health benefits from exercise, according to the American Physiological Society. Drinking water when exercising is especially important for seniors since they often have diminished thirst perception, the researchers said.