With everyone stuck at home during waking hours in light of the COVID-19 crisis, spending time outdoors during your retirement can feel like a distant daydream. Fortunately, you don’t have to put yourself at risk to be outside and breathe in some fresh air. Whether you live in a community designed for retirees over the age of 55 or you’re aging in place, the great outdoors has a host of benefits. But can it make you feel younger? Let’s find out.
Short-Term Memory Improvement
It may seem unlikely, but several studies have proven that nature walks have memory-promoting effects. In addition, those same memory-promoting effects weren’t present after walking in other environments. For example, one study had university students take a short test and then split into two walking groups: natural and urban. After walking, the students from both groups were given the same test again. The results revealed that the students who spent their time walking in nature performed almost 20% better than their peers who walked in an urban environment. While you’re probably not taking any academic tests, short-term memory improvement can have a distinct effect on the way you feel. Boosting your working memory abilities could very well make you feel a little bit more energetic and accomplished at the end of the day.
Decreased Stress Levels
When you’re stuck inside, snacking can feel like your only escape. And while foods like chocolate can boost serotonin levels — especially considering the average person eats roughly 11 pounds of chocolate annually — it’s no substitute for the great outdoors. There is something about spending time in nature that physically changes the expression of stress. In one study, students who spent two nights camping in the forest had noticeably lower levels of cortisol than students who spent two nights in the city. Cortisol is a key hormonal marker for stress, and lower levels of this hormone typically mean lower levels of stress. Even looking out your window at a forest or natural landscape has been found to relieve stress. And we all know that stress ages us. From poor posture to tensed up muscles, stress can wreak havoc on your body. When you take the time to get outside and relieve some of your stress, you’ll likely notice a marked difference in the way you carry yourself.
Higher Levels of Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found in plenty of places. Foods like salmon, fortified cow’s milk, cheese, and eggs all contain vitamin D, but the best way to get enough of this essential vitamin is to spend time outside. In truth, more than 90% of your exposure to vitamin D comes from spending time in the sunlight. Why is vitamin D so important? For one, it helps your body absorb calcium. In addition, it can help prevent osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, and promotes excellent muscle and nerve function. All of this combined, sufficient and regular exposure to vitamin D can help your body function in a way that can help you feel — and move — like you did when you were younger.
Relief from Mental Fatigue
Have you ever felt exhausted after a long day of work? If you answered yes, you’ve likely suffered from mental fatigue. When you start to feel tired just thinking about the next task, it could pay to spend a few minutes outside. Research has shown that exposing yourself to natural environments can help relieve mental fatigue and leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenge. If you live in one of the 38% of U.S. households that own a dog, it’s as easy as grabbing the leash and going for a quick walk with your four-legged friend. Even looking at pictures of nature or out your window at a natural setting can help relieve mental fatigue. And when you’re less mentally fatigued, you’ll likely feel more energetic and youthful.
While spending time outside doesn’t make you any younger physically, it can help you feel younger. Being outdoors can provide a huge energy boost and even help uplift your emotional state. How are you planning on getting outside today?