A walking charity has encouraged Scots to ease anxieties and boost mental and physical wellbeing by connecting with nature.
Scotland’s national walking charity, Paths for All, has launched a six-week Walking with Nature campaign to help people enjoy and appreciate the natural environment on their daily walks.
A UK-wide ONS survey has found that happiness and life satisfaction measures are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic in March and anxiety scores are at their highest since April 2020, indicating that there are real struggles with mental health right now.
The aim to get more people walking with nature comes after a report published by NatureScot found an increased proportion of the population reported health and wellbeing benefits from time spent outdoors connecting with nature during the lockdown.
70% indicated their outdoor visits and engagement with nature between August -September helped them to de-stress, relax and unwind, which is up from 63% in March to May.
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All, said:
“All too often, when people go out walking they are still attached to their phone and forget to take in the surroundings that we are graced with in Scotland.
“We hope this campaign will help people unwind and begin to enjoy the small and simple things in life, like spotting a wild animal, hearing a new noise or just generally feeling relaxed when out in the fresh air.”
The online campaign hub will help people understand how to connect and enjoy nature whilst providing various ideas, activities and information designed to motivate everyone to get outdoors.
The charity is also asking people to be kind, by undertaking small acts to protect nature and keep favourite local walks special for everyone. Actions such as moving a branch blocking a path, or saying a friendly ‘hello’ as you pass or step aside for someone, are small things that can make a big difference just now.
“60% of people in the NatureScot report found outdoor walks made them feel energised and revitalised which is up from 58% in March to May, and 56% agreed that it improved their physical health -up from 47% in March to May.
“Scots have increased their walking during this unprecedented time, and we would encourage everyone to keep it up.
“We believe by encouraging people to walk every day they will experience many positive physical, social and mental health benefits and in turn, we will move forward from this pandemic as a healthier, greener, safer and happier nation.”
It was also highlighted that 54% of respondents agree that nature is important to their physical and mental well-being whilst, 48% became more familiar with local greenspaces since lockdown began.
Caroline Fyfe, NatureScot’s Strategic Paths & Funding Officer, said:
“Our research has found that more people are visiting the outdoors and engaging with nature, so it’s great to see the Walking with Nature campaign encouraging people to build on that connection.
“The simple and fun activities are things we can all do, wherever we live. Tuning into nature while walking and giving a few minutes to improve the local walking environment can make a huge difference, not only to personal mental and physical health but also to local communities.
“At NatureScot, we want to support people to take the next step on their journey to caring for nature and experiencing all the benefits that can bring. For those inspired by Walking with Nature, we’ve lots more tips to help people make space for nature in their lives.”
Paths for All believe regular walking is key to leading a happy and healthy life – and it is important for people to continue enjoying short, local walks where it is safe and appropriate to do so, owing to the huge array of associated benefits.
The charity’s focus is clear: it wants to get Scotland walking: everyone, every day, everywhere.
For more information on Paths for All, please visit: https://www.pathsforall.org.uk.