Home & Garden

6 low-impact activities you can do without leaving your yard

From birdwatching to karaoke

Smiling family of four tossing around frisbee in backyard together with golden retriever on a sunny day. Credit: Getty Images / Gorodenkoff

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The sun is shining, and it’s time to get outdoors and play. Many seniors—and I’m speaking as one—need to avoid high-impact activities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.

Sunshine and fresh air are proven benefits to both physical and mental health. Now is a great time to take up a new hobby or reconnect with an old one, get together with friends and family, cultivate your garden, play games, and just enjoy being outdoors.

Here are some backyard activities that won’t put a strain on your body.

1. Play in the dirt

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Credit: Getty Images / Maksims Grigorjevs

Activate your green thumb with some good old fashioned gardening.

There is nothing more satisfying than planting something and watching it grow.

Gardening is a low-impact activity, for the most part, that benefits both your health and your pocketbook. Growing your own fruits and vegetables will not only save you money but will add to your enjoyment of food. After all, what tastes better—and is better for you—than fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes?

Gardening is also a great way to get to know your neighbors: Trade some of your tomatoes for their oranges.

If you’re new to gardening, try planting tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and herbs like sage, rosemary, and basil. You’ll also want to plant colorful flowers such as daylilies, petunias, and butterfly bush to attract birds and butterflies to help with pollination and reduce insects that harm plants. Go online or check with your local nursery to see what plants grow best in your climate zone.

If you’re limited on space, raised container beds are a good option. The wood frame can be purchased in kits that you assemble or you can build raised beds from scratch. You can also find beds with legs that elevate the container a few feet above the ground to create an accessible garden, allowing easy access for you if you’re in a wheelchair or if you otherwise have limited mobility.

Remember to always wear a hat, gardening gloves, sunscreen, and insect repellant when working in the garden.

2. Get crafty

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Credit: ArtMinds / Home Depot

Let your inner-child emerge with an imaginative new DIY project.

You can add some decorative touches to your yard and also try your hand at a new craft.
Transform a wrought-iron bistro table by creating a mosaic tabletop; you can find pre-cut mosaic tiles, grout, and other supplies at arts and crafts stores or online. You can also create a mosaic on a cement garden bench or paint a wooden bench in bright summery colors. (Be sure to use primer and paint that’s made for outdoor furniture such as latex or an oil-based outdoor type.) Complement the chairs or bench with your own hand-sewn cushions, and you’ve got the perfect seating options from which to view your magnificent garden.

You can also add mosaics or paint to steppingstones to create a whimsical pathway to navigate around your garden. You can create your own design from scratch or purchase a kit that contains the stones, paint, and brushes. Add pizzazz to your patio with brightly painted pots or pots covered in mosaic tiles.

Your garden not only provides a beautiful haven but also offers you the opportunity to learn the ancient art of flower pressing. You can make your own flower press or purchase one.

This activity is easy to do: Take some of the blooms from your garden, press the flowers, and then frame them or put them in a book for a lovely keepsake of this season’s bounty.

3. Bird watch

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Credit: Getty Images / _LeS_ / Brome Store

Welcome some flying friends into your yard with an inviting bird feeder that will keep them coming back for more.

If you don’t pay much attention to the little birds that flit in and out of your yard all day you’re missing out on a fascinating hobby. In fact, bird watching has become increasingly popular as people have focused more on their immediate surroundings.

Start with a good bird feeder. You can buy a feeder for seed-eating birds or make one yourself using something as simple as a toilet paper roll, a paper plate, and some string.

If you want to attract hummingbirds, purchase a nectar feeder. You’ll find a range of options, from simple to ornate. You can purchase nectar or make your own by adding raw sugar to boiled (sterilized) water then letting it cool. Be sure to clean the feeder frequently to avoid bacteria.

In addition to a feeder, adding a birdbath, small fountain, or other water feature is a good way to attract feathered friends. Hummingbirds especially are attracted to a gentle stream of water.

While many birds may be nesting in nearby trees, you may not be able to observe them as closely as you would like. You can get a better view by placing a birdhouse in the yard. Buy a ready-made birdhouse, create one from scratch, or build one from a kit.

To get an even closer view of these engaging creatures, purchase a good pair of binoculars with a magnification of 8x42. To identify and learn more about the birds you see, this National Geographic field guide to backyard birds comes highly recommended.

4. Exercise your body and your mind

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Credit: Getty Images / Space_Cat / GoSports Store

Create some friendly family competition with some outdoor games!

Take advantage of the warm weather and bring your yoga, tai chi, or other low-impact exercise routine outdoors. Look for outdoor-appropriate equipment and clothing like a thick yoga mat and breathable workout wear offering UV protection.

If you prefer to get your game on, there are plenty of other fun, low-impact activities to enjoy with friends and family in your backyard—although your Twister days may be over. Foosball and table tennis are perennial favorites and great ways to test your reflexes. Classic games like horseshoes, corn hole (aka bean bag toss), croquet, and bocce will also keep you moving.

For anyone with mobility issues, or if you just want to sit down, you can keep your mind sharp with puzzles and board games. If you haven’t played any for a while, rediscover the joys of Monopoly, Sorry!, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, and the other classic games you grew up with.

5. Sing and dance

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Credit: KaraoKing Store / Getty Images / Lisegagne

Release some stress and raise your serotonin levels with some sun and musical fun.

Vinyl is back (but, did it ever really go away?) and with new turntables those 45s and LPs sound better than ever. Take your old records off the shelf, kick off your shoes, and do the twist, frug, hustle, or whatever groove you move to.

While you’re at it, sing along to the music. Singing has been shown to raise spirits, lower stress, and improve immunity and lung function, among other benefits. You can even make a memory game of it. Challenge each other to name that tune in three notes, or recite the lyrics to a top 10 song.

If you really want to show off (or totally embarrass yourself—in a good way, of course), grab a microphone and have a karaoke contest. And don’t worry if you don’t remember the words to your favorite golden oldies. You can find karaoke machines that display the lyrics for you.

6. Have a family barbecue

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Credit: Getty Images / SolStock

Who can say no to a few grill favorites and some great conversation?

Why does food always seem to taste better when enjoyed outdoors? It’s that perfect combination and fresh air, sunshine, and relaxation that does it.

Fill a basket with goodies (perhaps some picked fresh from your garden), load the cooler with your favorite beverage, fire up the grill, and have a picnic in your backyard. In the market for a grill? More and more people are opting for a gas grill, which is easier to clean and more environmentally friendly than a charcoal grill.

For a special dessert, make homemade ice cream.

As the sun sets, gather ’round the fire pit and roast marshmallows or make s’mores. Then bring out the film projector, set up lawn chairs, and settle in for a movie night under the stars. The perfect end to a perfect day.

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