Recent research shows 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. Sheltering in place during the COVID-19 crisis has made getting out of your house or apartment particularly attractive and important. For most people, as long as you practice social distancing and wear a mask over your nose and mouth, you minimize your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Spending some time outside is rejuvenating, mentally and physically, for young and old alike. Take advantage of the health benefits:
When our skin is exposed to sunlight, our bodies make and use vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to help with a variety of ailments from depression to osteoporosis to cardiac disease. While people should not spend a lot of time outside without sunscreen or protective clothing, 15 to 20 minutes in direct sunlight a few days a week can help improve levels of this important vitamin.
A daily walk around the block lets you experience the benefits of exercise. Physical activity makes your muscles stronger, which improves balance and lowers your risk for falls. Exercise can also help control or reduce pain, improve your ability to fall asleep, and reduce depression symptoms.
Natural light improves mood. Many studies have shown that the closer you live to nature, the healthier you’re likely to be. 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. Sitting on your front stoop or porch, or on a nearby park bench, can help you feel connected to your neighbors and your neighborhood. Just remember to stay at least six feet away from others, and keep your nose and mouth covered!
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. Try these ideas: