Ask people what they like about living in Mill Valley and you are likely to hear about the small town feel as well as being so close to San Francisco, the Bay and the ocean. You are also apt to hear about living among the trees and being nestled at the foot of Mount Tamalpais. Guess what? It turns out those are good for you, especially if you are older.
A recent study from Harvard University noted that living near bodies of water, parks or other green spaces helps older adults avoid first-time hospitalizations for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers analyzed data regarding about sixty-two million Medicare recipients. When they focused on those living in ZIP codes with close proximity to natural environments or vegetation, like ours, they found a variety of clear health benefits.
Recent studies of seniors living in Japan had similar findings. In those, they found several health benefits to seniors who regularly participated in “forest bathing.” To be clear, this meant taking walks in heavily wooded areas, not “actual” bathing. They found that it reduced stress, increased life satisfaction, and improved overall health and happiness.
Researchers further found there are benefits when seniors talk about their experiences in the woods with others. The simple act of recalling their times in nature helped reduce blood pressure, improve moods and decrease the chance of several common illnesses.
It is a beautiful time of year to be outside. Spring has sprung, the rains are gone and now you have even more reason to get outside for a hike in the woods, a stroll along the waterside or both. Plus, you will get added benefit from talking about it with friends and family afterward. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy our backyard. If anybody asks why, you can now confidently assert that science shows it is good for your body and your mind!