Tag: outdoors

Safety Tips Ahead of Your Memorial Day Barbecue

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer for millions of people across the country. Backyard barbecues are a staple of Memorial Day weekend, and such informal gatherings contribute much to the laid back vibe of this beloved three-day weekend.

Backyard barbecues may be all about food and fun, but it’s important that hosts take measures to ensure such soirees are safe as well. By employing the following measures, hosts can ensure their Memorial Day barbecues are safe for all in attendance.

Place the Grill In A Safe Location

The National Fire Protection Association urges hosts to place their grills a safe distance away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves or overhanging branches. The NFPA also notes no grill should be placed within 10 feet of any structure, including a home.

Check Propane Tanks For Leaks Prior To Using The Grill

Memorial Day may be the first time many people use their grill since the previous summer or fall. The NFPA recommends propane grill users check their tanks for leaks prior to using the grill for the first time. This inspection is simple. Apply a light solution of soap and water to the hose. The NFPA notes a propane leak will release bubbles. The smell test also can reveal a leak, as a strong odor of gas can indicate a leak. In such instances, close the tank valve and turn off the grill. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional. If the leak persists, call the fire department. The NFPA urges hosts who detect an odor of gas while cooking to get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not move the grill in such instances.

Man The Grill At All Times

An unattended grill poses a significant safety hazard. Whether you’re using a propane grill, a charcoal grill, a smoker, or a hybrid, make sure an adult is keeping an eye on the grill at all times.

Purchase Long-Handled Cooking Tools

The American Red Cross notes that long-handled cooking tools are designed to keep chefs safe. Such tools ensure cooks’ hands and arms do not have to be directly over flames, which can periodically flare up and pose a safety hazard.

Ensure Children Are Supervised When Swimming

The grill is not the only safety threat that may be present at Memorial Day barbecues. Hosts who will open their pools or provide inflatable pools for children should make sure kids are supervised when in or around the water at all times. Before allowing kids in a pool, hosts should confirm their swimming abilities and insist kids who cannot swim or only recently learned to swim wear inflatables or life jackets to reduce drowning risk.

Memorial Day weekend is a festive time at many households. By emphasizing backyard barbecue safety strategies, hosts can ensure everyone has a great time and gets home safe this Memorial Day weekend.

The Health Benefits Of Being In Nature

Nature enthusiasts are known to say that spending time in the great outdoors has a positive effect on their mental and physical well-being. Such an outlook is more than mere speculation, as it turns out spending time in nature provides a host of health benefits that might surprise even the most devoted outdoors enthusiasts.

Nature and Cognitive Health

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias found that engaged persons with dementia in horticultural therapy-based (HT-based) programming solicited higher rates of participation than traditional activities (TA) programming. In addition, a separate 2013 study in the journal Dementia found that exposure to a therapeutic garden had a positive impact on quality of life for people with dementia. And it’s not just dementia patients who can experience the cognitive benefits of time spent in nature, as the Hagley Museum and Library reports that numerous studies have found exposure to nature improves cognitive function.

Nature and Vitamin D

The potential health benefits of vitamin D are increasingly drawing the attention of medical researchers, and for good reason. According to the Harvard Medical School, recent research has suggested that vitamin D may offer added protection against conditions such as osteoporosis, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and depression. Exposure to sunshine can help the body generate vitamin D, thus providing further reason to spend time in nature.

Nature and Overall Well-Being

Given the aforementioned health benefits related to spending time in nature, it’s easy for even non-scientists to conclude that being outdoors has a profound impact on overall well-being. But non-scientists can rest assured that recent research has confirmed such conclusions. A 2019 study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that individuals who spent at least 120 minutes a week in nature were significantly more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who spent less time outdoors. Though the authors of the study cautioned that the exposure-response relationship was under-researched, and therefore likely needed to be studied more extensively, in the meantime individuals, after a consultation with their physicians and confirmation that it’s safe to get out more often, can aspire to spend at least 120 minutes in nature each week. The results may speak for themselves.

Nature has a lot to offer, and the benefits of spending more time outdoors may be even more significant than people recognize.

Simple Safety Protocols That Can Protect Hunters

Hunting is big business in North America. In 2017, more than 15 million people hunted in the United States. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that sportsmen and women contribute nearly $9.4 million to the economy every day.

Millions of hunters take to forests and fields every year. Seasoned hunters and novices alike can benefit from revisiting some safety procedures before their first outing this season.

Weather

Weather should be a consideration whenever people spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Hunters typically leave before dawn and arrive home after dusk. Hypothermia is a very real risk for hunters who may be out in snow or wet conditions. It’s possible to get hypothermia by overdressing as well. Sweating and then being exposed to dropping temperatures puts people at risk for hypothermia. Hunters should dress in layers with moisture-wicking materials and a water-repellant outer layer. In addition, check the weather forecast before heading out as a last second precautionary measure.

Firearm Safety

Firearm safety is a critical component of safe hunting. Hunters use rifles, shotguns and other firearms. Each gun is different, so hunters need to familiarize themselves with new firearms before using them. The following are some additional firearm safety tips, courtesy of State Farm Insurance and Southern Land Exchange.

· Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded.

· Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

· Only point at what you plan to shoot.

· Clearly identify your target and what is beyond it.

· Fire within the zone-of-fire, which is the 45-degree area directly in front of each hunter.

· Firearm chambers should be emptied when guns are not in use.

· Use appropriate ammunition.

· Never modify or alter the gun.

· Never cross a fence, jump a ditch or climb a tree with a loaded gun.

· Never rely on a gun’s safety.

Additional Safety Tips

Hunters should always let others know where they will be when leaving in the morning. If something should happen, people back home can alert authorities if something goes awry. Always check equipment and maintain it properly. Equipment should include gear colored in hunter’s orange. That extends to dogs if they are accompanying hunters on a trip. This makes hunters more visible to other hunters. Also, carry a first aid kit, a charged mobile phone or a satellite phone to maintain contact with others in case of emergencies.

These are just some of the safety protocols that should be followed when hunting. Non-hunters should exercise caution during hunting seasons, particularly when entering forests and areas that hunters frequent.

Great Summertime Leisure Activities

A warm breeze on a summer day embodies the spirit of this beloved season for millions of people. Seen by many as a season to relax and recharge, summer, not coincidentally, goes hand in hand with leisure.

With more time on their hands due to vacations from school and work and less hectic activity schedules, particularly for families that include school-aged children, individuals often find summer affords more time for leisure. With that in mind, people from all walks of life can consider these summertime leisure activities.

Relax By The Water

Whether it’s a pool, lake or even the ocean, the water beckons each summer. Simply sitting on a beach or beside a lake or pool is a great way to pass the time without much stress. Nothing needs to be scheduled when relaxing poolside, lakeside or on a beach; simply enjoy some time to relax by the water.

Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is another leisurely way to spend a summer day. Paddleboarding requires physical exertion, so this might not be the ideal activity for those looking to relax without lifting a finger. However, paddleboarders typically take to the water when it’s at its most calm, making this a great activity for those who want to capitalize on peaceful, serene summer vibes.

Fishing

Few activities may be more relaxing than fishing. Though there are many different ways to fish, some of which require considerable physical effort, casting a line and waiting for a fish to bite is a relaxing way to spend a day in nature. That might not seem like much to novices, but spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and lower heart rates, which the U.S. Forest Service notes are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Read

Books make for great companions on warm summer afternoons. Reading is such a popular summer pastime that many bookstores set up displays featuring books that make for great beach reads, providing inspiration for individuals who aren’t sure which book or books to dive into this summer. And much like other summertime leisure activities, reading has been linked to reducing stress. A 2009 study from researchers at the University of Sussex in England found that reading can reduce stress by as much as 68 percent.

Visit A Museum

On summer afternoons when it’s raining or too hot outside or individuals simply want to spend some time indoors, a museum makes for the perfect place to visit. Museums do not typically draw crowds in summer, making this an ideal season to visit. Many offer discounted prices to individuals like seniors and students, so this is a great way to relax without breaking the bank.

Summer is a season of leisure, and there are many activities that align with that spirit of relaxation.

UV Exposure and Eye Health

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can prove harmful to the skin. UV rays have been linked to the formation of various skin cancers, including the dangerous melanoma. However, UV exposure also can cause issues elsewhere in the body, including the eyes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology says everyone’s eyes are at risk of damage from UV light, regardless of their age or skin pigmentation. But some people are at higher risk. Children are included in the elevated risk group because they often play outside. Some studies also show that people with eye diseases like retinal dystrophy or those who underwent surgery for cataracts may be at higher risk for sun damage.

UV Light and Eye Disease

UV light damages cells in the eyes, particularly in the retina. The Cleveland Clinic says the retina is responsible for capturing light that enters the eye and translates it into the images you see. If the retina becomes damaged, vision can be impaired or even lost. Here are some additional eye diseases associated with UV radiation.

· Photokeratitis: This is the equivalent of a sunburn on the surface of the eye. While it can occur during the summer, the sun reflecting off of snow or light-colored pavement also can contribute to photokeratitis at other times of the year.

· Cataracts: UVB radiation can harm the lens of the eye and damage proteins. Over time, these proteins can clump together to form cataracts.

· Conjunctival Cancer: This is a form of cancer that forms on the surface of the eye, known as the conjunctiva.

· Macular Degeneration: This is the leading cause of vision loss among older people, according to NVision Eye Centers. The macula is the center of the retina. If this area becomes damaged, central vision will be compromised.

Protect Vision

It’s easy to protect the eyes from UV rays. Individuals with blue or green eyes should keep in mind that they are at a high risk of UV damage. However, everyone should take precautions.

Look for sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays, offering 99 to 100 percent protection (or UV400 rating). UVA rays harm central vision, while UVB rays can damage the front of the eye. Sunglasses should be worn when spending time outdoors. Sunglasses are available in all sizes, even for kids. Wraparound styles may protect the eyes and sides of the face.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also can protect the eyes by filtering harmful light. Select a hat with a broad, dark brim that shades the eyes and reduces glare, advises the National Eye Institute.

Consider the use of UV-blocking contact lenses. Some contact lenses offer UV protection, which can be an added precaution when used with sunglasses.

Another way to avoid UV eye risks is to stay away from tanning booths, mercury vapor lights and some types of halogen or fluorescent lights.

Speak with an eye professional about UV eye damage and other ways to mitigate risk.

Fun and Educational Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is an annual holiday that has been celebrated since 1970. Despite somewhat humble beginnings, much of the globe now celebrates Earth Day, which this year takes place on Saturday, April 22.

Earth Day has long drawn attention to issues affecting the planet and its climate. The effects of those issues have grown increasingly noticeable in recent years, which makes this Earth Day and all subsequent celebrations an ideal opportunity to celebrate the planet while learning about the many challenges it faces in the years to come. The following are some unique, fun and educational ways to celebrate the planet this April.

Leave the car at home.

Winter weather is a distant memory by late April in many places, making Earth Day an ideal time to travel by foot or by bicycle instead of by car. That’s not only fun, but also a great opportunity to learn about carbon emissions. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Vehicles also emit a substantial amount of methane and nitrous oxide. This is why gas-powered vehicles are so often linked to climate change, much of which is driven by greenhouse gas emissions. A car-free Earth Day can be fun and serve as a catalyst for conversation about the effects of gas-powered vehicles on the health of the planet.

Volunteer with a local environmental organization.

Environmental organizations are committed to the ideals behind Earth Day all year long. However, each Earth Day many of these organizations sponsor eco-conscious efforts to help the planet and raise awareness about issues like climate change. Volunteering with a local beach or park cleanup or signing up to walk and raise money for a local environmental charity makes for a fun and educational way to spend your Earth Day.

Get your hands dirty and plant.

The National Forest Foundation notes that planting trees can have a profound and positive impact on the planet. According to the NFF, planting more trees helps forests to sequester carbon, which can have a significant effect on climate change. The NFF estimates that 100 mature trees can remove 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and 430 pounds of pollution from the atmosphere. Even if you can’t work with a local forestry organization to plant more trees in a nearby forest, planting native trees on your own property can help combat climate change.

Involve children in your efforts to combat climate change.

Today’s adults likely won’t be the ones forced to confront the more challenging consequences of climate change. Unfortunately, that cost is likely to be passed on to future generations. That makes this Earth Day a great time to involve kids more directly in efforts to combat climate change. Explain the significance of avoiding the car, volunteering or planting trees in terms that kids can understand, emphasizing that the future of the planet could very well be in their hands.

Earth Day takes on greater significance each year as the effects of climate change become more noticeable. This year the holiday can be celebrated in various ways that are both enjoyable and educational.

Spring Activities For Families To Enjoy Together

Spring is one of the most popular seasons of the year. After several months of chilly temperatures in many regions, spring provides a welcome reprieve from the cold.

Moderate temperatures makes it much more comfortable and inviting to venture outdoors, particularly for families with children who might not adapt to the cold as well as adults. The following are some family-friendly activities that make the most of spring renewal.

Visit Botanic Gardens

If there’s a botanical garden nearby, a visit in spring is a great time to soak in the beauty of nature. That’s because an abundance of flowers bloom during the spring, meaning a garden will be in peak form. Visitors can meander through rows of rose bushes or tour the labyrinth of trimmed hedges. Beautiful, flowering cherry trees, with their delicate pink or white petals, also are sights to behold in spring.

Prepare A Home Garden

Visiting a garden is one thing, creating one at home is another. In addition to planning a vegetable garden to enjoy tasty pickings throughout summer, you can devote some property to flowers that will attract wildlife. Check with a garden center about which flowers and plants attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. Many garden centers sell butterfly and hummingbird mixes to attract wildlife.

Go Animal Watching

Flowers are not the only thing on display come the spring. Many animals, including birds, are born this time of year. Baby animals are not only adorable, they can be entertaining to watch grow. Families can spend time viewing the animals that visit their yards or surrounding parks, being careful to keep their distance. Adults may be quite protective of their young, so it’s better to watch from the lens of a camera or with binoculars. Always resist the urge to help a baby animal who seems like it was abandoned. The parent may be a short distance away gathering food or trying to avoid drawing attention to the young to deter predators.

Get Out On The Water

A bright, warm day is an ideal time to enjoy the open water. Spring is a season when many marinas reopen and avid boaters put their vessels back into the water. You also can venture into streams or lakes aboard kayaks or canoes, getting exercise and seeing the scenery in the process. Bring a fishing pole along and cast it into the water for a few hours of recreation.

Make Wind Chimes

Enhance the garden or decor around the home by making wind chimes or other percussion items that can create beautiful music when spring breezes blow. Commercially available kits are sold, but wind chimes also can be made from items like bamboo or even strung shells.

These are just a few family-friendly activities to enjoy this spring.

Identify Winter Birds In Backyards

Birds flittering around the neighborhood are a common sight during spring and summer, and these welcome guests can be enjoyable to observe as they nest, feed and interact. When the weather cools in fall and winter, many birds seek out warmer climates, but a good number of these feathered friends stick around.

Certain birds can be found all winter long across regions of North America. The Great American Bird Count is a program that is run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Its purpose is to seek the help of volunteer birdwatchers across North America to observe and count all the birds seen in a 15-minute interval during a four-day data collection period. This program helps identify birds that are most commonly seen in cold temperatures and study the composition and distribution of the winter bird populations across North America. Birds seen during this time may change from year to year, though certain species are more likely to be around in the winter months.

Northern Cardinals

One of the more iconic winter birds, the bright red cardinals are around much of the year but perhaps most noticeable against the snowy, stark landscape of a winter’s day. Cardinals use their bright, powerful bills to crack open seeds and cut through sugary fruits to help them survive the winter.

Tree Sparrows

Tree sparrows are large-bodied and long-tailed sparrows with gray and reddish-brown streaking along the edges of their feathers. They also wear a bright chestnut colored cap. Despite their name, tree sparrows spend much of their time on the ground feeding. The bird count has unveiled a greater number of tree swallows in recent years. These birds are insectivorous, so milder winters may be contributing to their increased presence.

Tufted Titmice

Tufted titmice resemble cardinals in body and head shape, albeit on a smaller scale, but they are pale gray in coloring. These are bold birds who defend territory with scolding calls.

Blue Jays

These common, vibrant birds are well known to many people. They are large-crested songbirds with broad, round tails. They have white or light gray feathering on the underside of their bodies with various shades of blue, black and white on the top. A favorite food is acorns, and these birds are often found on forest edges. Their calls are loud and carry long distances.

Mourning Doves

Many people hear mourning doves before they actually see them, as their soft cooing often comes from roof rafters and tree branches. These birds have plump bodies and long, tapered necks, with a head that looks particularly small in comparison. They tend to be brown to buff color. When the birds take off for flight, their wings make sharp whistling or whinnying sounds.

American Goldfinches

These birds are sometimes called the “wild canary” of the Americas. They have distinctive yellow plumage that fades in winter to a palette of buff, brown and gray. They’re small seed-eating birds that often travel in flocks.

Birds may need a little help surviving in the winter. Keep fresh, unfrozen water around and supplement food scavenged with peanut butter, suet and nuts. Brush piles, roost boxes or birdhouses can provide needed shelter.

Find The Right Volunteer Opportunity For You

Giving back to one’s community can provide a sense of purpose and improve an individual’s overall well-being. Data from Volunteer Hub indicates that people who volunteer improve their health by strengthening their bodies, improving their moods and reducing stress. Volunteerism also produces additional benefits, including boosting one’s positive perception to others. A study from CareerBuilder found 60 percent of hiring managers see volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions. Furthermore, human resources executives attest that contributing to a nonprofit can improve leadership skills.

By understanding the value behind volunteer work – for the people or organization on the receiving end as well as the volunteer – more individuals may decide to donate their time and services. However, finding the right volunteer opportunity may take some trial and error. The following are some tips for finding the right fit.

· Consider skills and interests. Before choosing a volunteer opportunity, make a list of activities that you enjoy. This may help guide volunteer choices. For example, if you like hiking, you may volunteer to clean up a local park.

· Assess your skill levels. Is there something you are particularly adept at doing? For example, if you are a certified public accountant, you may be able to volunteer by mentoring young accounting students, or doing taxes or bookkeeping tasks for the elderly or less fortunate.

· Think about commitment level. Figure out how much time you can spend volunteering. Maybe you only have the weekends or a few hours in the evenings? Understanding how much free time you have can help you choose opportunities that fit within these parameters.

· Research potential organizations. Not all nonprofit groups are created equal. Utilize resources such as CreativeVolunteer that vet charitable groups to determine if they are trustworthy.

· Define your goals. Have goals in mind when selecting opportunities. Defining a goal can help you maintain the motivation to volunteer and see a project through to completion.

· Start small. Wade into a volunteer opportunity slowly to see if it is the right fit. This may include volunteering one day a week or month. Increase the time you spend volunteering once you’ve found the right place for you.

Volunteering can bring joy to a person’s life, especially when individuals find an inspiring opportunity.

Outdoor Activities That Are Perfect for Seniors

The great outdoors beckons people of all ages. Fresh air can be hard to resist and the benefits of spending time outdoors are so numerous that it behooves anyone, including seniors, to answer the call of nature.

According to researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, human beings benefit both physically and psychologically from spending time in nature. Such experiences can reduce stress and help lower heart rates, potentially decreasing individuals’ risk for cardiovascular disease. In addition, the Forest Service notes that spending time outside in green spaces has been linked to a lower risk of depression.

Seniors who are retired or even aging empty nesters who are still in the workforce can make great use of their free time by venturing into the great outdoors. The following are a handful of senior-friendly outdoor activities that provide a great reason to get off the couch and take in all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Hiking

Hiking provides a great workout and an ideal opportunity to spend time in an idyllic setting. The U.S. National Park Service notes that hiking helps individuals build stronger muscles and bones, improves their sense of balance, has a positive effect on heart health, and can decrease the risk of certain respiratory problems. Hiking is an especially attractive outdoor activity for seniors, as many parks feature trails with varying degrees of difficulty, ensuring there’s a trail for seniors whether they’re seasoned or novice hikers.

Water Aerobics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that water-based exercises can be especially helpful individuals with chronic diseases, a category many seniors fall into. The CDC notes that one study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology found that improves the use of joints affected by arthritis without worsening symptoms. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also notes that swimming can lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease. Seniors can reap these benefits by going for a dip in their own backyard pools or a local body of water, such as a lake or ocean. Many swim clubs also offer discounted memberships to seniors, making these another great and affordable way to reap the benefits of swimming.

Fishing

Of course not all outdoor activities need to make seniors huff and puff. Fishing provides a great reason to get outdoors, and many individuals devoted to fishing report feeling less stressed after a day spent casting for their favorite fish. Individuals who consume what they catch also can benefit by improving their diets, as the American Heart Association notes that consuming certain types of fish has been linked to a lower risk for heart disease and obesity.

Volunteering

Local environmental groups often sponsor cleanups at parks and waterfront attractions like beaches and lakes. Volunteering with such organizations is a great way to get outside and give back, and working with like-minded individuals can be a great way for seniors to meet new people. In addition, a national study sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service in 2019 found that 88 percent of Senior Corps volunteers who initially reported a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after volunteering.

The opportunities for seniors to enjoy the great outdoors are endless. Taking advantage of such chances can benefit seniors in myriad ways.