Mental & Physical Benefits of Being Outside
Spending time outside can have a positive impact on every person. By planning outdoor time into the daily routine, you can ensure that a person living with dementia gains the health benefits of being outside, fresh air, and sunlight, as well as the joy of engaging with nature.
Bella Groves is committed to providing resources and support to people living with dementia and their care partners. It is our mission to be a trusted resource for memory care in San Antonio and beyond. The outdoors can deliver physical, mental, and emotional benefits, and going outside can prove to be an enjoyable time for you and your family member.
Absorb Sunlight and Vitamin D
One of the most significant physical benefits of being outside is the absorption of Vitamin D. Exposure to natural sunlight allows a person to absorb Vitamin D through the skin. Daily absorption is essential because the body can absorb calcium and maintain bone health when Vitamin D is present. Vitamin D is also an antioxidant and protects against inflammation, making it important for the immune system and muscle health.
Beyond the benefits of Vitamin D, “People [living] with dementia have an out-of-sync circadian rhythm, but being outside in the sunlight, especially in the morning when the sun is at its brightest, can help improve their functioning, make them more alert, lower their risk of falls and reset their body’s internal clock (alzinfo.org).”
Connect with Nature
In addition to the benefits of natural sunlight, spending time outdoors can positively impact a person living with dementia through exposure to the natural world. Being outside in the fresh air, exploring a beautiful garden, or taking a leisurely walk along a path, are all unique benefits of being outside.
Spending time in nature is also a wonderful opportunity for a person living with dementia to engage in purposeful work. If they can safely do so, you can plan time to garden together, giving them direct contact with nature.
In fact, one study gave 20-minute gardening activities to people [living with] dementia in [a dementia care community]. After the residents had cultivated and planted in vegetable gardens, researchers discovered increased brain nerve growth factors associated with memory.
Nature is even a natural aromatherapy source! Natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine can make a person living with dementia feel calmer and more relaxed.
Relieve Stress & Reduce Agitation
For a person living with dementia, agitation and anger could become expressions that require careful and compassionate intervention. One way to encourage stress relief and overall peace is by sitting in a garden, listening to the soft sounds of a fountain, or watching birds in the trees.
Just as anyone might become anxious or frustrated staying inside all day, people living with dementia need access to the calming presence of the natural world.
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Although simply being outdoors can have immediate positive benefits, light exercise is another important activity that can be scheduled into the daily routine for people who can safely do so.
As little as ten minutes of walking each day can improve cardiovascular health, which is directly tied to cognitive health and brain function. And on a personal/relational level, walking together can be a wonderful daily routine that forges a unique bond of kindness and love between you.
Explore the Outdoors Safely
There are many benefits of being outside, but there are also risks that must be accounted for. Depending on the level of dementia, you should plan to accompany your family member during their daily outings. This will allow them to enjoy the outdoors while feeling supported by you.
It also guards against wandering, which can occur even if a person living with dementia is walking along what has always been a familiar path. It is wise to always take precautions when spending time outside so that your routine becomes one of happiness, meaning, and joy.
At Bella Groves, we are committed to delivering exceptional memory care to individuals in the San Antonio, Texas, area. We encourage you to spend time outside whenever it is safe to do so. For more resources and educational materials, visit our website today.