Summer is in full bloom, and there’s no better time for venturing out into the sunshine and reaping the benefits of emerald lawns, fragrant blossoms and breezes ruffling the trees. But enjoying the natural beauty of the outdoors is only the beginning. Science tells us spending time in nature also can improve your health.
The exact mechanism by which nature works its magic is uncertain, but the impacts are real. A study published in the Journal of Aging found 70-year-olds who spent time outdoors every day experienced significantly fewer declines in activities of daily living and also reported fewer sleep problems and aches and pains.
Basking in nature also is linked to less depression, reduced blood pressure and lower amount of the stress hormone cortisol. And, green and blue environments—places that incorporate plants, trees, grass and water features—were found to have a major positive impact on the health of seniors citizens
“We zoomed in to everyday life for seniors between the ages of 65 and 86,” said University of Minnesota researcher Jessica Finlay. “We discovered how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health.”
Nature’s beauty can be enjoyed in city neighborhoods, but its full restorative effects occur in natural environments, according to a Stanford University study. Monarch Landing is ideally situated along the Illinois Prairie Path and naturally growing prairie area, with abundant native plants and flowers.
A gem within minutes of Monarch Landing, is the Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre natural area located in nearby Lisle. People of all mobility levels are welcome as the arboretum features nine miles of roadways and 16 miles of hiking trails that wind through an array of tree collections including oak, walnut, gingko, conifers and flowering trees. There also are lakes, meadows, forests and a restored tallgrass prairie. They are the perfect backdrop for watching birds, siting deer or peering into the watery depths to catch a glimpse of crayfish or turtles. Wheelchairs are welcome, including on the open-air Acorn Express, which will take you through prairie, wetlands and woodlands to the narration of an on-board guide.
One way to time your visit is to check out the weekly Bloom and Color Report to see which of the Morton’s 4,300 different plant species are putting on a show. Other attractions include changing displays of outdoor art, a children’s garden that is enjoyable for all ages and a maze garden that is dense and deep. Refreshments are available in the visitor’s center, where you’ll also find a gift shop.
Home gardeners, like the residents who tend their own gardens or the community monarch garden at Monarch Landing, can get lots of ideas and inspiration from the Morton Arboretum. Like any other activity that involves Mother Nature, puttering with plants and spades and watering cans nurtures both mind and body. And the side effects aren’t bad, either: a garden full of colorful, fragrant blooms that lasts all the way until fall.