The Health & Wellness Benefits of Getting Outside!

With business professionals working at a desk all day, youngsters on couches playing video games, and aging elders forced into indoor isolation; we’ve got a nation of sedentary people! A massive rise in the ‘sitting disease’ has developed. 

The ‘Sitting Disease’ Can Stress You Out
Having a sedentary lifestyle can literally stress you out. Yes, that’s right. Not getting enough movement can cause psychological distress. Australian researchers found that men who sat for more than six hours a day were 90% more likely to feel moderate psychological distress.  Additionally, they found sedentary behavior increased feelings of nervousness, restlessness, hopelessness, and even tiredness. 

German researchers analyzed 43 different studies impacting four million people and found that a sedentary lifestyle correlated to a 24% higher risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% higher risk of lung cancer. 

Get Up and Get Outside
The health and wellness benefits of getting outside into fresh air and sunshine are abundant. Time outdoors can positively impact both physical and mental health. Simply spending time outside and breathing in fresh air is an instant mood-lifter. 

Outdoor fresh air can clean out your lungs and reinforce your immune system while reducing stress and anxiety. Oxygen directly affects the release of the serotonin hormone in the body which regulates mood. Fresh air also increases the flow of oxygen which makes your digestion process more effective. 

Soak In Some Sunshine!
Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs for building and maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D also regulates many other cellular functions in your body. It’s an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function, and brain cell activity. (per the Mayo Clinic) 

The Geriatric Dietitian website explains the relationship between the sun and Vitamin D like this: ‘Vitamin D is a family of compounds that includes vitamin D1, D2, and D3.  Also known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ because vitamin D3 can be produced on your skin when you are exposed to sunlight. 

For those with lighter skin, even being outside for 15 minutes can be enough for your body to produce all the vitamin D it needs for the rest of the day. The Geriatric Dietician website does add: that the amount of skin exposed during this time, as well as health and living conditions also factor into how much vitamin D is produced.

Aging Bodies and Vitamin D Deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include muscle weakness, changes in mood and cognitive function, fatigue, and stress fractures. Weakened muscles and bones from low vitamin D can increase the risk of falls and fractures, which puts elders at high risk. 

Because vitamin D regulates immune function and the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine, its deficiency can also cause changes in mood and cognitive function. 

If you are caring for an elder with a Dementia diagnosis, you’ll note that some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency like fatigue, changes in mood, and cognition can mimic symptoms that align with Dementia as well. 

Therefore, whether you are a professional caregiver or a valued family member providing care to someone with Dementia (or any elder, for that matter) please note the importance of weaving in regular outdoor experiences into their care routine. 

Walking, gardening, bird watching, or being playful with a pet outside are all opportunities to not only be outside enjoying an activity but the fresh air and sunshine will have a high impact on so many other crucial components for overall wellness. 

Keep in mind, the abundant benefits of fresh air and sunshine: 

  • • Improves sleep quality 
  • • Relieves stress 
  • • Strengthens the immune system
  • • Refreshes neurological functioning 
  • • Provides natural vitamin D 
  • • Boosts the respiratory system

Every ‘body’ benefits from sunshine and outdoor activity regardless of age. Fresh air gives your immunity a well-deserved boost making it easier for the body to fight germs and viruses before they infect. Get outside! Take deep breaths and soak in a little bit of sunshine. 

Your body will benefit greatly.