Going out is the new staying in: More Scots venture outdoors during lockdown

Nature and the outdoors have an important role to play as Scottish society recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the country’s nature agency.

A recent survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) shows the number of people getting outside to explore the countryside, enjoy wildlife and boost their health increased during lockdown.

The results show a third of Scots were getting out and about while restrictions on activities were in place, compared to one in five previously.

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Seven in ten have been heading outside at least once a week in recent months, up from one in six before lockdown.

A survey by Scottish Natural Heritage shows an increase in the number of Scots venturing outdoors during the cornavirus lockdown

Nine out of ten outdoor visitors took regular local walks, while one in five opted for running or cycling - a fourfold increase from pre-Covid times.

Nearly three quarters of those polled cited health as a motivator for going outdoors during the pandemic, with more than one in three choosing to exercise outside in a bid to reduce stress levels.

Two thirds of people said their experiences had helped them de-stress, relax and unwind, while more than half said it made them feel “energised and revitalised”.

The majority of respondents said they planned to continue taking more outdoor exercise as lockdown lifts.

The poll showed people have also become more interested in nature since the Covid-19 pandemic saw restrictions placed on many activities

Previous studies have demonstrated a range of health benefits for people spending time in green spaces and close to nature, including improvements in both mental and physical well-being.

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska linked the heightened importance of nature to recovery from Covid-19.

“Nature is at the heart of our emergence from this crisis,” she said.

“The results from this survey reinforce just how important nature is for all of us – both physically through exercising and emotionally for our mental health.”

Most Scots have said they intend to keep up their increased outdoor expeditions

Participation in nature-focused activities also increased significantly during lockdown – two thirds of people took the opportunity to relax in their gardens, with many also cultivating plants and encouraging wildlife.

Now SNH has launched a new campaign to help Scots to get a healthy dose of the outside world and simultaneously boost plants and animals.

Make Space for Nature encourages people to further explore simple, fun activities that can help nature thrive – from submitting sightings of birds, frogs, and butterflies to swapping pollinator-friendly plant cuttings with friends and even learning to love weeds, which are a great food source for pollinators.

Ms Osowska added: “During lockdown, activities such as noticing birds and wildlife and the change in seasons were relatively high, even among those who rarely or never visited the outdoors.

“These people have made an important first step in loving nature and experiencing all the benefits. We want to help them keep it up.”

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