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

Battling Wintertime Blues with Nutrition

Are you struggling with the winter blues? Is it cold and dark and dreary in your part of the country? When was the last time you felt and saw the sun? You could be lacking vitamin D, and this can lead to depression and a lower immunity to fight colds.

So, if you aren’t able to get your much-needed 15 minutes of sunlight each day to supply your body’s vitamin D needs, start battling wintertime blues with nutrition with these food ThinkstockPhotos-stk26325fls-1.jpgoptions:

  • Fatty fish: This includes salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, and sardines. Three ounces of salmon provides 450 IU of vitamin D—almost all of the daily recommendation of 600 IU. Canned tuna and sardines are an inexpensive way to get in seafood, giving you heart healthy omega 3s and 150 IU of vitamin D per serving. Another bonus is the long shelf life if you haven’t been to the grocery store to get fresh protein choices.
  • Milk: Almost all cows’ milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. A lot of other dairy products are, too, but not ice cream or cheese. Typically an 8-ounce glass of milk has 100 IUs of vitamin D, and most yogurt has around 80 IU for a 6-ounce container. If you are choosing soymilk or almond milk, most are fortified, but check the labels to be sure.
  • Fortified orange juice: If you aren’t a fan of milk or have lactose intolerance, 100% orange juice is an option. Typically an 8-ounce glass has the same amount of vitamin D as a glass of milk (100 IU). Just make sure you are buying the fortified kind.
  • Egg yolks: Eggs are a great way to get in vitamin D. However, you have to eat the whole egg and not just the whites to get the benefit. One egg yolk has 40 IUs.
  • Fortified cereal: Another way to double up on vitamin D is to choose a fortified cereal to have with your milk or glass of OJ at breakfast. 1 cup of Multi Grain Cheerios provides 90 IUs of vitamin D. Add milk to that and you are close to 200 IUs! Just be sure to choose cereals that are labeled as fortified with vitamin D.
  • Supplements: If you still have trouble getting all of your vitamin D needs met through food and the sun, an alternative is to take a supplement. The upper-limit dose for individuals over age 9 is 4,000 IU per day. Consuming more than this can lead to higher blood calcium levels and increased risk of kidney stones. Always talk to your physician before starting a supplement.

Recent studies have found that nearly 3 out of 4 individuals have either a Vitamin D deficiency or borderline deficiency. Most of this because we spend more time indoors compared to our parents and grandparents. Longer work hours, longer commutes in a vehicle, and more screen time indoors definitely play a part. Get outside, incorporate more of the foods above, and chat with your doctor about supplementing. All of this can mean a healthier immune system, stronger bones, and lower risk of some cancers.

Want to lose weight, gain muscle, manage diabetes, improve sport performance, reduce cholesterol, or just figure out how to grocery shop and prepare healthier meals?

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Topics: nutrition supplements depression winter blues vitamins winter