by Aimée Lister

A saving grace for millions of us during this pandemic has been the great outdoors. Exercise is fundamental in supporting our mental health and wellbeing. With the closure of gyms and other sports facilities, more people have been forced to convert to outdoor exercise. This article discusses why we need to keep this momentum going long after the pandemic.

As the hugely successful figures show, the number of downloads of Public Health England’s ‘Couch to 5k’ app soared during the first lockdown back in March-June 2020. NHS England published an article in July, stating that there had been a 92% increase in downloads compared to 2019. A rise in downloads also occurred for other fitness apps, including ‘Strava’, ‘Map My Run’ and ‘Fitbit’. It is evident that many Brits have felt the need to take to the tracks and fields in order to keep moving.

Mind, the mental health charity, have declared that the pandemic has pulled us into ‘a mental health emergency’. As well as a steep rise in fitness apps, mindfulness and meditation apps have grown in equal measure, with ‘Calm’ doubling in value since the start of the pandemic according to The Sydney Morning Herald. This is a correlation that speaks volume. Exercise is a crucial way of helping our mental wellbeing. Whether a gentle walk to avoid cabin fever or a vigorous run to relieve stress, exercising increases our levels of dopamine and serotonin, helping to clear the mind and positively impact our mood. Thus, many of us have a new-found appreciation for the outdoors.

Therefore, now more than ever, we need to take advantage of the nation’s love for the outside world and encourage people to do more to protect the environment. We need to up the urgency. The pandemic has reminded us just how important nature is, and with more people on board fighting climate change, we can at least create one positive from the events of 2020 and 2021. Additionally, if more people continue to exercise outdoors as oppose to travelling by car to gyms, this will help to lower CO² emissions and automatically help the planet. Hence, the growing momentum towards outdoor exercise and fitness apps needs to be further encouraged so that it can last long after COVID-19.

Outdoor exercise has endless benefits, both for the individual and for the environment. We can look after ourselves while taking care of the world around us. In order to see these benefits, we simply need to keep moving.

By Louder Than the Storm contributor Abbie Atkinson


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