Have you noticed that the heat is coming on less and less in your home? If not, just look at your last heating bill. And in our world of cause and effect, the cause is increased outdoor temperatures and the effect SHOULD be increased outdoor activities on your part. Outdoor activity is the panacea for cabin fever and you don’t even need to fill a prescription.
Look, I’m sure you’re aware about the benefits of regular physical activity, but what about the benefits of regular “outdoor” physical activity? Humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature which is referred to as biophilia and too many of us attempt to resist that connection. Yet another fact: less than 3% of America’s senior population attains the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, and that can have dangerous consequences.
Some of the benefits of outdoor activity are more obvious than others, such as increased exposure to sunlight which exposes us to vitamin D which improves brain, bone and muscle functions (just beware of overexposure…as with everything else, moderation is best).
However, studies have also shown that regular outdoor activity improves our health and well-being and improves our physical, emotional and cognitive functioning. So, keeping all this in mind, here are eight outdoor activities we all should do more of:
- Tai Chi – Before you think I’m getting all “Karate Kid” on you, let me explain. Yes, tai chi began as a defensive martial art, but it has since evolved into a balletic activity of continuous, gentle movements. It’s different from yoga in that with yoga you hold a pose (sleeping dog) for a short period of time, while with tai chi, you’re in continuous motion, albeit, at a slow pace. Locate a “tai chi in the park” group in your area, or simply access the internet machine, learn the basics and head to your backyard.
- Search for gold — …with a metal detector. And no, it doesn’t have to be on a beach. Grab your metal detector and head to the local park or historical site and you’ll be amazed at the objects that are lying around out there. Here’s am interesting article that offers examples of successful treasure hunts and can help get you started: https://www.wired.com/2011/08/treasure-hunters/
- Picnics – Grab your basket, blanket, chicken salad sandwiches, your favorite companions and locate an out-of-the-way picnic spot, preferably on a level, grassy area near a babbling brook. Just ensure that getting to that spot requires some walking to get there. You’ll be amazed how relaxing this activity is and how the conversation flows when you’re away from a screen.
- Yard games – Hit the backyard or park for a rousing round of horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet or badminton. These games are perfect for bringing out the competitor in all of us and can be a great way to reconnect with friends and/or family members. Side note: I understand the safety aspect, but I truly miss “Jarts,” the yard game that involved plastic circles and metal tipped lawn darts…just sayin’.
- Be a tourist – even in your own hometown. Go on a historical walking tour, visit the zoo or botanical gardens or downtown area or local, state, or national parks or Civil War battlefields or any other outdoor place that interests you.
- Bird watch – Yeah, I know, I used this one in my fall outdoor activities post, but it’s perhaps even more relevant in the spring as birds become more active as they prepare to bring the next generation of our avian friends into the world. The few birders I know are extremely passionate about their hobby and tend to record just about every aspect of their sightings, to include the species (of course), and when, where, and under what weather conditions the sighting occurred. This is one of those hobbies that permits various levels of immersion, but its seems to have some addictive qualities, and, in this instance, that’s not a bad thing.
- Gardening – This activity is perfect for the spring for obvious reasons and there’s nothing more satisfying than eating delicious and healthy food you planted and cultivated yourself. And if you live in an apartment or senior community that does not offer space for this activity, move…just kidding. There are many places that rent small plots for a nominal fee.
- Stroll through a local farmer’s, flea or craft markets – The larger the better. Heck, this one doesn’t even seem like an outdoor exercise, but it most certainly is. Remember, all that’s required to reap the benefits is getting outside and slightly raising your heart and breathing rate for a moderate period of time, and wandering through a massive flea market in search of hidden treasures certainly qualifies.
One last note, try to do these activities with a group of friends or family members and do so on a regular schedule. Also, use the group to coerce (or shame) each other to get out there and find that Baltimore Oriole, or practice tai chi like Anne Hathaway and Robert de Niro in “The Intern,” or go in search of lost jewelry, or weed the garden, or watch the handlers feed the elephants, or whack that shuttlecock around, or pack that picnic basket. Hell, just get outside and be active. You’ll be glad you did.