Recent research has shown that being in nature has very real benefits for physical and emotional health. But the average American spends as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, so few of us experience the benefits of time outside. And family caregivers looking after a homebound loved one may find it especially difficult to get outside.
Spending some time outside is rejuvenating, mentally and physically, for young and old alike. Take advantage of the health benefits one can experience from spending more of the day outside:
Exposure to sunlight increases the body’s ability to make and use vitamin D, a vitamin that many of us lack in sufficient amounts. Vitamin D has been shown to help with a variety of ailments from depression to osteoporosis to cardiac disease. While people should be careful not to spend extended periods outside without sunscreen or protective clothing, short periods in direct sunlight can help improve levels of this important vitamin.
A daily walk around the block can allow you to experience the benefits of exercise. Physical activity improves muscle strength, which improves balance and lowers your risk for falls. Exercise can also help control or reduce pain, improve your ability to fall asleep, and alleviate depression symptoms.
Natural light tends to elevate mood. Many studies have shown that the closer you live to nature, the healthier you’re likely to be. People who lived within a mile or so of a park or a wooded area experienced less anxiety and depression than those who lived farther away from green space. It seems that being in nature, or even close to it, can help relieve some of the stresses of modern life.
Homebound individuals often have less contact with other people, and feelings of isolation can lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Spending time outside can help to reduce loneliness. Taking time to sit on your front stoop or porch, or on a nearby park bench, can increase feelings of community connections and re-engage a person with the pulse of their neighborhood.
Though finding opportunities to spend time in nature for New Yorkers can often be difficult, numerous local parks offer a free way to escape the urban jungle. If you’re a family caregiver in charge of someone who resists going outside or who can’t easily get out, try these ideas to tempt your unwilling loved one into experiencing the benefits of time spent outdoors, or simply to rejuvenate your own spirits: