Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Why Spending Time Outdoors Is Good for Physical and Mental Wellness

GettyImages-1138813719 (1)If you’re looking to improve the overall happiness and well-being of your residents—and even yourself—try taking your offerings outside of the fitness center and straight into nature!

Many of our NIFS fitness staff members schedule outdoor activities as a key component of their wellness programming, when and where weather permits. Some of the most popular open-air activities we have offered include walking groups, hiking trips, snowshoeing, yoga classes, mindfulness and meditation events, recreational sports, gardening, and outdoor socials. Exercise-related health benefits are already widely acknowledged, but did you know that the additional advantages of immersing oneself in nature may far surpass exercise alone?

Let the Sun Shine In!

Sunlight can help boost your Vitamin D levels, which is essential in calcium absorption to keep bones healthy and strong. Those who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, and a whole catalog of cancers. In addition, getting sufficient sunlight can aid in preventing type-2 diabetes and some autoimmune disorders.

Get Active

Physical activity typically increases as we spend more time in natural environments, and the two together help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls how the body responds when at rest. Not only does this provide a relaxing, calm feeling, but it also reduces resting blood pressure, strengthens immunity, and can help decrease the risk of developing chronic disease.

Just Being Outside Is Beneficial for Mental Health and Wellness

Not in the mood for a “workout”? That’s okay, too! You can still fight mental fatigue, tension, and stress by simply being in nature. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that spending as little as 20 minutes either sitting or walking in nature was enough to significantly reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly used as a stress marker. The greatest rate of reduction in cortisol levels was observed in those who spent between 20 and 30 minutes in green spaces.

Anxiety and depression, too, have been proven to be lessened by spending time in nature’s powerful restorative environments—so powerful, in fact, that researchers at Stanford University call time spent in nature a mental health prescription.

Mental health disorders can contribute to poor sleep, and poor sleep can equally contribute to mental health disorders. Not only can time spent in nature improve overall mental health, leading to better sleep, but it can also play a fundamental role in improving sleep patterns, leading to better mental health. Sleep patterns are intrinsically regulated by circadian rhythms—this is commonly referred to as the body’s internal clock—which is directly tied to the sun’s schedule. Spending too much time in the absence of natural light, or in the presence of artificial light, can alter a person’s circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep patterns. Lucky for us, this balance is easily restored by getting back to nature and spending time outside.

Are you taking advantage of all that nature has to offer and sharing it with everyone you know?

NIFS staff love helping create Active Adventures with the communities where we help do wellness better.  Click below to see if outsourcing and having a vendor partner with you is a right fit!

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Topics: disease prevention senior wellness programs bone density emotional wellness depression vitamins anxiety nifs staff nature outdoor exercise

Active Aging: “We All Need to Be Needed”,Emotional Wellness and Dementia

When creating senior wellness programs, we often focus on the physical realm of wellness. I would like to take some time to talk about emotional wellness. In particular, I want to get into the emotional wellness of our residents with various forms of dementia. 

All too often when someone begins to feel the effects of some form of cognitive loss, they begin to pull away. At first it is out of embarrassment over not being able to recall a friend’s name immediately or the name of a common object, or the frustration as they lose the concept of time and place. 

senior_careTaking Care of Someone with Cognitive Loss

Imagine if you had the knowledge that you were no longer able to follow a conversation with a group of people and be able to equally contribute to that conversation. Wouldn’t that lead you to draw away from your friends and family to save yourself from such an embarrassment? All our youthful years we identify ourselves by what we do or what we know. I’m an athlete, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, and so on and so on. Wouldn’t this also lead you to be depressed if you could no longer identify yourself? 

What if we as the caregivers could do more than take care of someone with dementia? Do more than shower and dress and prop them up somewhere. Those of us in wellness tend not to be the ones to deal with the hygiene portion of an individual’s care, so how can we contribute to their daily lives? The easiest and best way is time and attention. Depending on the stage of disease, there are many things that we can do to let our residents know they are still loved. 

It is easy to say, “Yeah, but I don’t have time. I teach classes and run programs and work with people individually and there is just not enough time in a day.” There is good news. It does not take a lot of time. Programs can be created to include spouses, friends and family members, or volunteers to help share the responsibility of time. These programs can be built to be held in short increments of time. The most important thing with any of these programs is to just remember to be with your residents. Not shuffle them from place to place or activity to activity. Take the time to truly be with them. Let them tell you a story; ask questions about their interests. Don’t try to control the conversation. Let it go wherever it may, just as you do when catching up with a good friend. 

Ideas for Emotional Wellness Programs

Here are a few ideas to include in a dementia program:

Music time: Sing-alongs, classical music, or music of their time. Music is the universal language understood all over the world and is the best trick up our sleeve.Story time: This is not time to read a story to your residents. This is time to listen to your residents’ stories. Pay no mind if that story switches tracks; just be there to listen to that story and contribute to a conversation that may come out of it. 

Current events breaks: Try to focus on some happy current events. 

The most important thing to remember is to live in the moment, because that is all someone with dementia has: a series of moments. I encourage anyone who potentially will be spending time with someone with dementia to either read the book or see the movie Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It is a profound story that will open your world to an amazingly deep understanding of an individual’s perspective of the need to be needed.

New Call-to-Action

Topics: senior wellness programs brain health dementia memory care mental health emotional wellness