When it’s summer in Northeast Ohio, most folks try to spend every waking moment outside, soaking up the good weather while it lasts. We all are, after all, creatures who live in nature and nature is good for us. However, sometimes we opt to spend most of our time indoors. It may be because of the air conditioning or because of mobility-limiting health challenges.
A study done by the University of Minnesota in 2015 proved that time in green and blue spaces outdoors is very important for the health and well-being of older adults. The sound of water flowing or the sight of a butterfly in search of nectar has a huge impact on overall health. But why?
Being outdoors encourages physical activity and engagement. This can increase energy and motivate people to be more emotionally, spiritually and socially active. It also can offset chronic illness, disability and isolation. Seniors are at special risk for depression and spending time in a natural outdoor setting can boost our mood. Walks outdoors can replace medication for stressful situations or pain.
Communing with nature also can boost memory performance and attention span by 20 percent, according to a University of Michigan study. Plus, you can enjoy those brain boosts for a longer time by living a longer life. Folks who live surrounded by vegetation live an average of 12 percent longer and have a 34 percent lower rate of death from respiratory diseases.
However, I am an attorney, so any advice must come with warnings. In order to be safe in nature, you need to be careful, too. Just as you would carefully apply sunscreen to a child or grandchild, don’t forget to apply it to yourself as well. The sun can be harmful to adults and some medications increase sun sensitivity. Plus, avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Drink lots of water, wear loose fitting clothes and a sun hat. Enjoy the beauty of nature from the shade sometimes.
Finally, although walking outdoors is a good way to stay fit, it also has a risk of injury. Wear proper walking shoes and use a walking stick. Stick to paved trails. If you have issues with walking, many trails are handicapped accessible.
Spending time outdoors has many health benefits. Don’t be afraid to wander into the great green and blue yonder. Just be proactive and safe while doing so.
Laurie G. Steiner is a member of the law firm of Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. She is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and the Ohio State Bar Association and an accredited attorney for the preparation, presentation and prosecution of claims for veterans benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She practices in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid, VA and Disability Planning, and Estate and Trust Planning and Administration.