After a long winter, spring marks the end of our hibernation, with lighter nights, the promise of warmer weather and the chance to spend more time outdoors.
It can be as simple as taking time to sit in the garden or as adrenaline-fueled as taking up a new outdoor sport. However you choose to make the most of the longer days this spring, you will certainly reap the rewards.
Just 10 minutes a day outside can help re-stock your store of vitamin D, which is often depleted by a dark winter indoors. The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a key role in bone health as well as supporting muscle function and your immune system. But if that’s not enough reason to swap your slippers for your shoes, then there are many other benefits to embracing a spring outdoors. Time outside can boost your mood, help you to get moving and try new things and can also widen your social circle, bringing new friends as you join a club or try a new activity.
Enjoying the outdoors on horseback is a rewarding experience that offers physical and mental health benefits. The environment can present some terrain challenges but there are riding schools that specialise in adaptive riding, making it accessible to wheelchair users as well as people with other physical and learning disabilities.
Benefits: Learning to ride can improve posture, balance and coordination, and can help regain a sense of mobility and movement. The mental and emotional health benefits of spending time with horses are also well documented, and the process of learning to ride brings a real sense of achievement.
If you like to sit and watch the world go by, then fishing could be the new spring activity for you. A hugely popular pastime, 54,000 disabled people in the UK currently hold a fishing licence and access to fishing sites is also improving, with many of the main lakes and fisheries now providing better platforms, accessible pathways and parking.
Benefits: According to the British Disabled Angling Association (BDAA) fishing is a sociable activity that increases attention span, sense of achievement and motor skills development.
Get involved: The BDAA lists UK fisheries with accessible access to their water, as well as opportunities to get involved, including coaching and buddy schemes – www.bdaa.co.uk
One of the best ways to get a dose of the great outdoors, rambling is cheap and open to everyone, with a host of routes, tracks and walkways around the UK accessible for wheelchairs and scooters. Join a local club and you’ll be supported by your fellow members, which is a good way to ramble if you have a physical or visual impairment.
Benefits: A few hours off the beaten track is going to do you the world of good, from providing some gentle (or not so gentle) exercise, fresh air and the chance to unwind. Ramble in a group and you can socialise and exercise at the same time!
Get Involved: The Disabled Ramblers is a charity covering England and Wales championing greater access to the countryside for people with limited mobility – www.disabledramblers.co.uk
The Ramblers Association covers England, Wales and Scotland and organises group walks and local clubs – www.ramblers.org.uk
There are archery clubs around the country and many run have-a-go taster sessions so you can see if you have scored a bullseye with a new outdoor activity. Archery is a fantastic adaptive sport, you can both sit or stand to take part and the challenge remains the same. And, with the support of a spotter, archery can also hit the mark for people with a visual impairment.
Benefits: Archery gives a good upper body workout as well as boosting eye-hand coordination, concentration and focus. Plus, it’s great fun and can be done both indoors and outdoors.
Get involved: Find an Archery GB club near you to book a taster session – www.archerygb.org British Blind Sport provides some excellent guidance on archery for people with visual impairments – www.bbsarchery.org.uk
Fancy yourself as a green-fingered type? Then get gardening this spring, and you could quite literally reap the rewards come late summer. You may need to adapt your garden, for example adding ramps and raising beds but the effort will be worth it. Even if you don’t have a garden, there are still ways for you to try out the ‘good life’ by tapping into the green scene in your area, such as community projects or allotment schemes.
Benefits: Where do we start? Fresh air, exercise, stress-busting, satisfaction of growing your own plants or vegetables. Gardening is the ultimate outdoor spring activity!
Get involved: The Royal Horticultural Society has a wealth of advice on adapted gardening – www.rhs.org.uk and search ‘gardening with a disability’ – while the Gardening for the Disabled Trust can offer small grants to help adapt your garden – www.gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk
Who doesn’t love BBC2’s Springwatch series, with all those stunning shots of migrating birds and hatching chicks? If that sounds like you, then why not get even more up close and personal with your local wildlife by taking up birdwatching (or bird-listening) this spring? There are currently over 220 natural nature reserves around the UK, many with good access for disabled people, providing the perfect opportunity to become a ‘twitcher’. All you need is a flask of hot tea, binoculars and some patience and, with spring the season when birdlife comes into its own, you will be totally rewarded.
Benefits: Fresh air, company, the chance to learn more about nature and build your photography skills, birdwatching is a wonderful thing to do in spring.
Get involved: Birding for All works to improve access for disabled people to reserves, facilities and services for birding – www.birdingforall.com or check out www.rspb.org.uk for ways to get involved.
If the warmer spring days are inspiring you to take up a new sport this year, why not consider giving golf a go? From a physical point of view, it is relatively low impact and suits a wide range of abilities. It is also inclusive, with its point system offering a ‘level playing field’ when it comes to team or
Benefits: A game of golf offers a sustained low impact workout, improves balance and hand-eye coordination as well as focus. It’s sociable too, so a good way to meet new people.
Get involved: take a taster at your local golf club – visit: www.englandgolf.org/article/get-into-golf/ for sessions, course and membership opportunities.
The lighter nights and longer days of spring are a great time to take up photography, whether it’s using your camera phone to take snaps of your local park or neighbourhood or signing up for a photography course. Taking up photography doesn’t need to be expensive, but it is a good reason to get outdoors – even sitting on your patio with a cup of tea taking pictures of the flowers, plants and wildlife will get you to see your own garden in a whole new light.
Benefits: Outdoor photography means you can go at your own pace and is a good way to
Get involved: To find a local photography course check out your nearest adult education service or search: www.mapmyphoto.co.uk