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Springtime Wellness: How Seniors Can Stay Active and Healthy accent

May 22, 2024 | By

Spring’s arrival in the Midwest means longer days, warmer temperatures, and sunnier attitudes. These changes create measurable effects on the human body, from allergies to circadian rhythms, and this season of renewal is an inspiring time to launch a few healthy habits.

Let’s look at the science behind how this season affects mental and physical health and dig into springtime wellness strategies.

Warm Weather and a Warm Outlook

Spring is more than just a fresh season of green grass and blooming flowers — it’s a time when our bodies are experiencing renewal as well. The science behind springtime’s effect on the human body is well-documented.

Longer days and increased sunlight hours create a positive effect on the amount of melatonin in the human brain and the functioning of our internal circadian clocks. These changes provide a boost of physical energy, enhanced cognition, and better sleep. Some scientists even made a connection between exposure to sunshine and the body’s production of serotonin, the happiness chemical.

Embrace these physiological changes and use the momentum for personal change by implementing new, healthy routines into your day-to-day life.

Physical Health Strategies for Springtime Wellness

Take time to evaluate your current routines and habits, and see how you can fit the following physical health practices into your springtime health and wellness plans.

Schedule Medical Checkups

During springtime, some people experience an uptick in joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis, asthma from pollen, or headaches from unpredictable weather and barometric pressure changes. As you age, these factors may affect you differently than in years past, influencing overall health and even the ability to handle basic personal care such as activities of daily living (ADLs). Stay on top of these changes by scheduling time with your healthcare providers for regular preventive care.

Exercise

Now that temperatures are rising, consider stepping outside for warm-weather workouts. Need inspiration and motivation? Find a new way to move by joining a gym, walking club, cycling group, or golfing group.

If you experience joint pain and need low-impact ways to move, look for a community swimming pool to swim a few laps or join a water aerobics class. To maintain stability and balance as you age, seek outdoor group exercise classes such as tai chi or yoga to improve your core strength.

Stay Hydrated

Every bodily function relies on proper hydration, from healthy digestion to a regular cardiac rhythm. Older adults are especially prone to dehydration and its negative effects. Before you step outside, know the signs of dehydration

  • Feelings of thirst and a dry mouth, lips, and tongue
  • Lack of urination or dark-colored urine
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Tiredness or confusion
  • Involuntary muscle contractions or cramps in the arms or legs

As spring heats up, hydration becomes even more important. For people 51 years and older, the National Academy of Medicine recommends 13 cups of water per day for men and 9 cups for women. Consider investing in a reusable water bottle to carry with you, and, whenever possible, choose to drink water during meals. Food with high water content — including melons, citrus fruit, and broccoli — also counts toward your daily goal!

Embrace Healthy Eating

Spring heralds the return of seasonal fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals essential for healthy aging. Not only are these a core part of a spring wellness strategy, but they’re also more affordable because they’re available in abundance.

Shop for seasonal produce in your grocery store aisles or at a local farmer’s market. Keep an eye out for fruits such as apricots, bananas, strawberries, lemons, and limes, and fill up your plate with fresh vegetables such as spinach, radishes, peas, and asparagus to obtain the best nutrition out of this growing season.

Brush Up on Sun Safety Practices

Springtime and daylight saving time mean more hours of sunshine each day. Warmer temperatures and bright skies can boost your mood and vitamin D levels, but be sure to incorporate daily habits to protect your skin from the sun.

As you head outside to enjoy the nice weather, be sure to bring along the following:

  • Protective clothing: Wear long sleeves and hats when practical.
  • Sunscreen: Choose a high sun protection factor (SPF) option that filters out Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which are associated with skin aging, and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which are associated with skin burning. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.
  • Shade: Stay in the shade, or use an umbrella to carry the shade with you.
  • Sunglasses: Look for large lenses that provide 100% UV protection.

Manage Your Allergies

Springtime tree and flower blooms are beautiful, but they can wreak havoc on allergies. To mitigate seasonal allergy issues, shower after spending time outside to rise away pollen, and stock up on over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. If allergy symptoms are difficult to control and impair your quality of life, consider visiting an allergy specialist for ongoing treatment such as allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy (i.e., allergy drops applied daily under the tongue).

Mental Health Strategies for Springtime Wellness

Spring is often bustling with plans, and your task list may be full of to-do items as you prepare for busy summer activities or travel. Remember to include the following activities that promote your overall mental well-being.

Step Outdoors

According to scientists, people who spend more time in nature enjoy enhanced cognitive functioning and attention and decreased stress. They are also less likely to display anxiety disorders and depression and more likely to report high levels of happiness and well-being.

The good news? You don’t need to spend a long day hiking to feel these benefits. Exercising outside, gardening, and even just sitting on a porch and enjoying a verdant vista can boost your serotonin levels and make you feel happier.

Learn Something New

Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body. Curiosity and a desire to learn can improve your happiness and empathy and help you maintain long-term cognition as you age. Take advantage of the renewed mental energy springtime brings by seeking out local lectures and ongoing educational opportunities or checking out a local attraction or museum you’ve never visited before.

Pick up a New Passion Project

If the season is inspiring your hands and mind to move, consider picking up a new interest or passion project. Seize the creative spirit of the season by trying out a new kind of art, from pottery-making classes to painting nights with your friends. Or even take advantage of the perfect growth conditions by gardening!

Lean into Positive Thinking

Lean into the season’s boost in physical and mental energy by cultivating thought patterns that nurture a longer-term positive mindset. Some strategies for this include:

Do a Deep Clean 

It might be a cliché for the season, but spring cleaning does provide real physical and emotional benefits. Deep-cleaning dust and allergens from your house can mitigate allergy symptoms. In addition, living in a clean, organized space can provide a sense of accomplishment, reset your frame of mind, and improve your overall mood.

Springtime Health and Wellness at Your Fingertips

When it comes to embracing strategies for wellness this season and beyond, don’t feel the need to implement all these strategies at once. Instead, pick a few to focus on first to lay a foundation, and build more healthy habits from there.

Looking for local Iowa resources to help prioritize your well-being? Discover a treasure trove of options in our Complete Guide to Healthy Senior Living in the Des Moines Metro Area.

des moines healthy living guide

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