With the current restrictions in place to protect us and our NHS from the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently allowed to go outside once per day as long as this is for exercise alone or with members of your own household.
Getting outside is not only beneficial for your physical health but plays a great part in maintaining good mental health as well. Many of us are not able to exercise at our local gym or attend our usual fitness classes due to the restrictions. So we are turning the great British countryside into our gyms. People are walking, cycling and horse riding daily to keep their fitness levels up, whilst our physical health is reasonably easy to keep on top of using our outside gym our mental health may be suffering in these uncertain times.
The great outdoors can help our mental health as it can reduce stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions. We can still use our outdoor spaces from endless rights of way in the countryside to green spaces on our doorsteps. As long as you are following the government guidelines to stay local, only exercise alone or with members of your home once a day and maintaining social distancing of 2m minimum we can still all enjoy getting outside.
We should not be travelling unnecessarily to complete our daily exercise whether we are walking the dog, running 5km or doing a cycling tour of your local villages. This means we need to get our maps out and get looking at what’s available on our doorsteps. You can use the Ordnance Survey app and online mapping to discover routes from your own home. They have the OS Explorer and Landranger maps that show you rights of way, they also have a layer showing the National Cycle Network and a Greenspace layer. Whichever way you are looking to get outside there is a map to help you plan from the comfort of your own home.
Whilst the mountains may be calling for us we must resist and stay at home and explore our local surroundings. Many of us spend our weekends escaping our homes to adventure far and wide. The Peak District, the Lake District the Norfolk Broads wherever you are longing to explore they will be there when this all passes. In the meantime we can have plenty of micro adventures at home or from home, you can camp in the garden or explore routes within walking distance of your home that you may not have known existed.
Micro adventures are the current trend with people climbing the equivalent of Everest from their back yards which means everyone can get involved. Outdoor organisations are creating events accessible to everyone OS have their #GetOutsideInside initiative and the Ramblers have their #RoamSweetHome Challenge. Make sure you get involved with your family or smash some step goals alone, all of these activities help our mental and physical health whilst confined to our homes.
I have walked along many footpaths and bridleways that I have merely seen on a map and never physically travelled along, it’s been intriguing to be able to wander along routes and see where I end up. I have made it up to Mickfield Meadow from home to be treated to the fritillaries in flower, the meadow has never been sprayed or fertilised so has created a flower-rich hay meadow managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It’s surprising what can be discovered locally on a micro adventure from your own front door.
Our day to day routines have mostly gone out the window with many people now working from home or being furloughed it means our day to day life has changed dramatically. We need to find a new routine and this should include the outdoor spaces close to home to keep some sanity in our lives. I have started a new job since the lockdown began which is permanently based at home so the routines I create now will hopefully stick even when the lockdown is lifted. Having a routine will make you more productive, sleep better at night and boost your mood, I start my day with a dog walk or run and I feel much more productive for my day at work thanks to getting active first thing.
Enhancing the senses:
We can really slow things down thanks to the lockdown and go back to basics. When you’re out and about enjoying your government approved once daily exercise take a moment to enhance your senses and what busy life has had you passing by.
What can you hear? Have you experienced the morning chorus of the birds lately? Can you hear any running water? Can you hear any laughter from near by gardens? You could try listening to some nature or adventure podcasts to get you in the frame of mind to tune into nature.
What can you smell? Is there any flowering flora: near by, gorse, oilseed rape or blossom? Is there a change from the usual pollution, can you breathe in pure air? Is there any agricultural smells, have the farmers been muck spreading?
What can you see? Look beyond the usual blinkered view we have all become used to. What colours do you see? What animals do you see? What colour is the sky? Do the colours change each day? What shapes do the clouds make? What shadows are casting from the trees?
What can you feel? Is there a breeze? Is the sun warm on your face? Is the grass wet under your feet? Is the ground hard or soft?
Lets make the most of this lockdown and keep our physical and mental health in the best condition we can during these exceptional times. Make sure to keep in touch with your family and loved ones and encourage them to get out in the fresh air whether is for 5 minutes or an hour. Enjoy this slower pace of life for a little while and tune in to nature for a while.