The National - Scotland must 'get creative' so people can still get outdoors

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SCOTLAND should make sure people can access the great outdoors as easily as possible and find creative ways to maximise the time they can spend in local green spaces while practising social distancing, according to a national charity.

Current Scottish Government advice is that people can spend as much time outdoors as they want, provided they keep two metres between them and anyone that they are not already in close daily contact with. They should also wash their hands after touching hard surfaces such as railings, gates and playground equipment, as the virus can last on surfaces for periods of up to 72 hours.

Research shows that spending time in nature and green spaces has numerous health benefits, including reducing mild depression and symptoms of stress. Some studies show it can lower heart rates and reduce violence, while nature-related outcomes for children include improved attention skills and decreased hyperactivity, as well as improved physical and mental health.

Julie Procter, chief executive of Green Space Scotland, told the Sunday National that she had been delighted to see the UK’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, confirming on Thursday that people were able to go to parks if they kept the appropriate distance. This policy remains in place. She said: “I think we need to prioritise opportunities for people to go outside and into green spaces because its so good for their physical and mental health and wellbeing. To avoid over-crowding people could look to find alternative green spaces that are nearby. It could be as simple as going to that little triangle of green nearby. Maybe you could even do some daily tai chi. “Studies show that getting contact with nature is almost like pressing the reset button. It can also help us get well. Research shows that people with a view of green space in hospital recover faster. Even if you show people a picture of the natural environment it can slow blood pressure and reduce stress.

“It can be a place to give people a cheery wave or a greeting from a safe distance. I would like to see as much green space made available to the public as possible at this time. It’s time to get creative. While everything else is closing, let’s open up as much of Scotland as possible.”

Though those who have symptoms have been instructed to quarantine themselves for 14 days, she suggested that those who do not have access to a private garden should make sure they expose themselves in other ways, watching videos of nature online and looking at images

She stressed that even if restrictions were tightened, authorities should find a way to access. “I think we could look at staggering access so people are able to go at different times, for instance,” she added. She urged the public to take care of parks and green spaces, taking home all litter in acknowledgement of staff shortages at this time. Catharine Ward, professor of landscape architecture at University of Edinburgh, agreed that access to green space in the midst of the crisis was important. She said that a study from the University of Exeter suggested that the maximum benefits to health and wellbeing were achieved by spending a total of three hours a week in natural environments. “Seeing other people in parks or public open space can help us feel more socially in the current situation with Covid-19 restrictions.

“Staying indoors all the time is not good for anyone. Parks and natural environments can be visited safely so long as we maintain social distance as advised by NHS, which is relatively easy to do in such spaces. The benefits from getting out and enjoying nature, which should be freely available to everyone who has a park nearby they can walk to, are multiple, helping us relax, cope with stress, feel our mood lifting, offering the opportunity to be physically active and less isolated from the world around us.” She advised that people choose an uncrowded nearby space they could get to by walking or cycling – including a riverside, woodland, beach or coastal path, the grounds of a gallery or National Trust property, which are currently free – and try to visit it most days.

“So long as you wear appropriate clothing to keep warm, and maintain social distance (at least two metres) from others you meet, you should enjoy the fresh air and feel better for having engaged with nature, whether it’s seeing spring bulbs, hearing birdsong, or just getting away from it all for a while,” she added. “At this time of year, especially in Scotland, we’re all feeling the lack of sunlight which our bodies use to help metabolise vitamin D, so a bit of sunshine can really make a difference to our overall health.” A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government confirmed that there was nothing in current guidance to prevent people from spending as much time outdoors as they wanted, as long as they followed social distancing guidance.

Period23 Mar 2020

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleThe National - Scotland must 'get creative' so people can still get outdoors
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size3 pages digitally
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Producer/AuthorKarin Goodwin
    PersonsCatharine Ward Thompson