Whilst the rules for getting outside at the moment make enjoying outdoor spaces more challenging, there is so much benefit to be found in spending time outdoors that, where we can do it safely, it is well worth the effort.
Many of the original parks in our towns and cities were built by the Victorians with the idea of public health in mind and, although our society has changed a lot since then, parks still continue to provide space for exercise and enjoyment of nature. Research shows that green spaces have the benefit of increasing our well-being through improving our life satisfaction and reducing morbidity due to physical activity undertaken outdoors.
The report Natural Capital Accounting for Public Green Spaces in London, published by The Greater London Authority, National Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund estimated that London’s public parks were valued at more than £5 billion per year, mostly in terms of public health. The closure of many parks during the current pandemic has severley restricted people’s ability to access nature and, although parks are for the most open now, fewer people are visiting them and are spending less time there when they do. Interestingly, research has shown that restricting access to green spaces from approximately 2 hours per week to zero can have a well-being impact equal to one third of the impact of losing your job! That is not something to be sniffed at and shows just how important our parks and green spaces are.
It’s not just green spaces that are beneficial though; according to BlueHealth self-reported general health in England is higher among populations living closer to the coast – what luck to have the lovely Sussex coast on our doorstep!
So as the lockdown moves into the next phase and there is some apparent easing of certain restrictions it makes sense to try to get outdoors, albeit following government guidelines, and to enjoy the benefits of our natural spaces on our health and well-being.