It’s summer and nature is calling, urging all of us to take our fitness and activity programs outside. Research on why outdoor exercise is better than indoor exercise is building: a 2012 study of adults 66 or older found that participants who exercised outdoors (usually walking), completed, on average, about 30 minutes more exercise than those who worked indoors.
Additional smaller-scale studies have shown that there are other advantages to being active outside. Study participants reported that they enjoyed outdoor activities more, scoring significantly higher on psychological tests measuring vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem. At the same time, they scored lower on tension, depression and fatigue after walking outside.
There’s no definitive answer yet on why we experience these benefits: researchers think that one reason might be that being outdoors increases exposure to Vitamin D. Getting sufficient Vitamin D can reduce your risk of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart attacks, and is also thought to improve mood.
If you enjoy walking outdoors, you’ll gain even more health benefits when you walk with others. Experts say that the social aspect of exercising in a group is linked to a more positive outlook and better mental health. They also say that if possible, it’s better to exercise in a more natural setting—such as a park or green space—than in a paved location.
Beyond walking, Tai Chi is another increasingly popular outdoor exercise that offers many benefits for seniors. This ancient Chinese internal martial arts form is often practiced in a park or any green space.
It is sometimes called “meditation in motion,” although with all its health-boosting properties, it could also be called “medication in motion.” Tai Chi helps to relieve stress, promotes deep breathing, reduces arthritis pain and can even increase arterial flexibility—a predictor of heart and circulatory health.
Consisting of a series of 19 gentle movements and one pose, Tai Chi helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance and focus.
You may have seen groups of people practicing Tai Chi in parks all over the world, particularly in Asian countries, where it’s very popular with seniors. Many seniors’ residences, community centres and gyms offer Tai Chi, or a similar form of exercise. As with beginning any new exercise, check with your doctor first.
Chartwell Retirement Residences offer a wide range of activities to help you keep moving well into your retirement years. Click here to learn more about the health and wellness programs offered in our retirement communities.