The weather has finally turned, and it’s time for us to enjoy the outdoors. Nature – that great restorer of mind, body, and soul – is waiting!

There are many benefits of exploring nature for older adults. Whether you’re living in your own home or a retirement community, you can improve your health in a number of ways by getting out into the great outdoors and exploring nature.

What Nature Provides

Our cognitive health is enhanced by our interaction with nature and the other people who might be enjoying the outdoors with us. The brain is given a break from its usual routine, which helps us refocus and re-energize. Plus, our stress and anxiety diminishes as our energy increases. More movement and less worry means a fitter body and healthier sleep, which translates to a strengthened immune system and less susceptibility to frailty.

Enjoying our time exploring outdoors promotes exercise, lessens stress, and increases happiness. A study shows that living in or near green spaces can extend life expectancy and boost mental health. According to the study, people naturally “prefer certain natural environments that are essential to thriving.”

Many Options to Get Outside

You don’t have to endure a challenging hike to reap the benefits of exploring nature. There are many ways you can spend time outside and still make the most of the experience. Here are some suggestions:

Walking. A brisk walk can improve your mood and your circulation, decrease cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, improve breathing, increase your metabolism, and make you feel good about accomplishing all of the above. It is also a great way to socialize with a friend or neighbor who walks with you.

Sitting outside. Just sitting outside on your deck or patio has its benefits. As you relax, your blood pressure lowers, stress hormones are reduced, and you give yourself time to put things in perspective. Sitting outdoors, especially in green spaces, restores you physically and emotionally.

Gardening. Pair being outdoors with the physical activity of gardening, and the benefits are twofold. Along with the mental and emotional benefits, you burn calories, strengthen muscles, slow down the aging process and – as some studies show – lower the risk of dementia. You can also bring the outdoors indoors with indoor gardening. Succulents do well indoors, as do plants in a terrarium. If you have a table you aren’t using, fill it with greenery.

Bird Feeding. Even if a senior is physically challenged by getting outdoors, a bird feeder close to a window can bring some of the wonder of nature into your home. Birds put on a never-ending show of feeding, flying, and singing. Adding a bird book to help identify and learn more about the birds that use the feeder adds interest to a rewarding mental activity.

Container Gardening. Planters can add so much personality to your outdoor space, and cause you to enjoy the outdoors even more.

Being Near Water. There is something soothing about the sight and sound of water. Streams, rivers, lakes, ponds—water has long been associated with a sense of meditation. Stress flows out and serenity flows in, along with all of the physical and emotional benefits.

Picnic or party outdoors. Enjoy the healing of the outdoors shared with family and friends. Stress, as well as the risk of depression due to isolation, is reduced. Share some laughs. Research has shown that laughter can help relieve pain, reduce the level of stress hormones, lead to a positive mood, and even increase immunity. Play games. While you are at the picnic or party, play some lawn games like horseshoes, bean bag or ring toss, washers, or croquet. Movement is good for the body, and friendly competition is good for the mind.

To learn more about healthy hobbies and activities for seniors visit Bethesda’s Health & Wellness blog.