The charity, which cares for London’s eight historic Royal Parks and other important green spaces in the city, encourages people to rally against the rain and be bold in the cold bywrapping up warm and walking to visit the incredible nature on their doorstep.
City-dwellers everywhere are invited to enjoy the stark winter beauty of their local green space where they can connect safely with people they live with, their support bubble or with one other person during the national restrictions and beyond. The parks are a great place to enjoy the fresh air, connect with nature, play with your children and stay fit – whether that’s by walking, jogging or cycling.
Research suggests that the pandemic has negatively affected mental health. Levels of mental distress such as anxiety, depression and stress increased up by 8.1% at the end of March and early April 2020,compared with 2017-2019, according to Public Health England*. In particular, adults with low household income or socioeconomic position, who have been more adversely affected by the coronavirus crisis, have reported greater levels of anxiety and uncertainty during this time – getting outside for exercise can be a great way to improve your mood.
The ‘Welcome Winter’ campaign is reminding all city-dwellers that spending time outdoors in green spaces can benefit both mind and body. Making a habit of taking at least a 20-minute walk for a daily dose of daylight during the dark winter months can boost people’s mood and help keep them healthy.
Almost two thirds (59%) of the UK adult population surveyed found that going for a walk outside helped them cope with stress caused by the pandemic, and half of UK adults visited green space to help them cope according to The Mental Health Foundation**.
The Royal Parks’ chief executive, Andrew Scattergood, said: “It may be cold outside but we know that being outdoors in your local green space, seeing trees, hearing birdsong, seeing the sky and feeling in contact with nature are associated with increased levels of happiness and wellbeing. It’s never been more important to look after ourselves than now. Put simply, a walk in the park makes you feel better.
“Parks everywhere were a lifeline for city-dwellers during the first lockdown, providing beautiful, free spaces for everyone to stay healthy and lift their mood. They remain here for everyone now, as a refuge for whoever needs them.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, said: "2020 has been tough year for many of us but getting active could make a difference to your wellbeing this winter. To stay healthy, it's really important to take care of our minds as well as our bodies and that’s why I'm encouraging everyone to safely take a daily 20-minute walk.
"While we will be spending more time indoors this winter, evidence shows that green environments can promote and protect good health. The greenspace we have across parks everywhere is incredible and a great place to get outside.
"When leaving our homes for exercise, it's important that we stay safe by only meeting with people we live with, support bubbles, or with one other person while we're under national restrictions. Remember to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance from others and get tested if you or your household have any symptoms of COVID-19."
Dr Jacqui Dyer MBE, Mental Health Equalities Advisor for NHS England and co-lead of Thrive LDN, said: “It’s OK to treat yourself to the things that make you smile and make you feel good. Going for a walk and spending time in local green space has been a key coping mechanism for many people who have experienced stress due to the pandemic. The Royal Parks’ Welcome Winter campaign is a great way of sharing the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time outdoors safely, even during the winter months, which can support people to build strength and resilience.”
For those who are not able to leave their homes during lockdown, The Royal Parks is offering a range of digital learning resources to help bring the parks to their sofas. This includes nature trails, craft sessions, storytelling and podcasts uncovering the parks’ history.
For media enquiries contact The Royal Parks press office on 0300 061 2128 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Improving access to greenspace: A new review for 2020 (© 2020, Public Health England)
** Resilience across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic (© 2020, Mental Health Foundation)