Brandy Zwicker is no stranger to what keeps seniors physically and mentally healthy. As a ten-year Registered Nurse veteran, she has worked in the areas of medical, oncology, cardiac telemetry, critical care step-down, and basic care. Coupled with her passion for outdoor exercise, Brandy Zwicker has gained invaluable experience in regards to the perseverance of the human body. That’s why when she meets seniors struggling with depression, sleep, low energy, weakness and more, she always offers the same prescription – get outside.
“We all hear how daily exercise is important, but this is especially true for people 65 years’ old and above,” said Brandy Zwicker. “Exercise can be daunting for older seniors, but as the days pass by, many become weaker from living a sedentary lifestyle. It’s important to remember that movement does not need to only occur in a gym setting. Outside exercise offers so many benefits, and you don’t need to do much to achieve them.”
According to one government estimate, the average American spends 90% of his or her life indoors. They are even more inclined to spend time indoors as they age. But spending time outdoors has significant physical and mental health benefits. Here are a few of Brandy Zwicker’s favorites.
Improved Spirits and Mental Health
Group nature walks can significantly reduce depression. Seniors who spend time outside experience less stress and better mental health. Sunshine, natural green surroundings, and fresh air helps individuals feel happier and experience less anxiety. If seniors have access to parks, Brandy Zwicker highly encourages them to visit them on a regular basis, to feel the sunshine on your skin if nothing else.
Increased Vitamin D Levels
Another reason to feel the sunshine and move about outside is to increase Vitamin D levels. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to pain in muscles and bones, inflammation, diabetes and several types of cancer.
“Sunlight helps begin the process that leads to the body’s creation of Vitamin D,” Brandy Zwicker explained.
Many Americans don’t have enough Vitamin D circulating in their bodies, but it’s one of the easiest vitamins to acquire. Just by going outside for 10-15 minutes, the body can begin producing Vitamin D, which may protect against osteoporosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, depression, heart attacks, and strokes. Getting sunlight is especially important for seniors as they produce about a fourth less of the vitamin than they did in their 20’s.
The best way to achieve Vitamin D creation is through limited sun exposure in the morning or late afternoon without sunscreen (sunscreens block out UVB light, which helps start the Vitamin D process). Avoid the sun when it is at its highest, and, of course, wear sunscreen when you’re out for an extended period of time.
Stronger Immune System
Being outdoors increases white blood cells where the effects can maintain over several days.
“White blood cells, called leukocytes, are those warrior cells that fight diseases and foreign invaders,” explained Brandy. “The more white blood cells, the less likely a senior will get sick, and more likely a senior will heal faster.”
Getting outdoors has also been linked to better memory and improved creativity, a vital benefit to keep the brain sharp and functioning.
“Getting outside, seeing nature, helps you feel more awake and have a better sense of well-being,” said Brandy Zwicker.
How to Enjoy the Outdoors
Need ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors? Brandy Zwicker recommends walking, gardening, riding a bike, and even jogging if the person is able.
“As long as you move a little and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight, you’re making your body stronger and mentally sharper,” said Brandy.
About Brandy Zwicker
Brandy Zwicker is a Bachelor of Science (BSN) Registered Nurse with ten years of nursing experience. Brandy has five children and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, and other outdoor fitness opportunities. She enjoys running, spin cycle, yoga, weight training, basketball, and indoor rock climbing.