With tight restrictions owed to changing safety measures, the public has been largely limited on the kinds of outdoor activities available. As a result, public health and wellbeing is a growing concern at the centre of conversations about general health, both relating to mental wellbeing and exercise. From festival and concert cancellations, to vacations at home, the scope of outdoor activities may seem at first very limited. Yet, with careful caution, the public may still be able to enjoy the outdoors, not least, as more restrictions are loosened and life returns to (a new) normality.
Wellbeing, Safety and Getting Out
From scenery to exercise, the outdoors can facilitate health benefits to boost mental wellbeing. A topic of passionate research and journalism, the outdoors has been linked to, and associated with, wellbeing benefits and general happiness. Not only does exercise and fitness nurture better health, but being immersed in nature – surrounded by freeing birdsong and quiet wildlife – can seem therapeutic.
Being outdoors, it would seem, is its own kind of therapy. The key word, that many associate with nature, is mindfulness. Many relate their relaxation to a sunny beach, a faraway woodland, or a distant mountaintop.
Yet, with safety measures, what kinds of activities should you try during the pandemic? Moreover, what are the accessible activities that everyone can enjoy?
Travel by wheelchair through lush landscapes, down winding trails, offers a number of scientifically proven benefits from decreased stress such as boosted immunity, mitigated pain and increased life satisfaction. Accessibility options can range from the obvious and not too laborious, to the more creative forms of escape such as mountaineering or cycling.
Adapting your mobility for the outdoors is much easier thanks to a wide spectrum of accessories and mobility aid configurability. Certainly, the demands on your mobility aid will vary, depending on activity or terrain. But, adjusting your mobility device may only need careful due diligence – once, of course, you know which activity you’d like to try.
Accessible Outdoor Activities
1. Explore with a camera
If you’ve been isolating for a while, try exploring new parts of your local setting, such as an unfamiliar route down a tumbling country lane. Quiet settings like these can offer both physical and mental benefits.
Opt for quieter, less travelled routes and avoid crowded spaces, remaining mindful of social distancing at all times. Use local exploration as an opportunity to observe safety measures, whilst enjoying the natural bliss of nature around you. Many have used lockdown to explore new hobbies, or old forgotten ones. This might be the perfect time to revisit your camera and occupy yourself with a hobby that benefits from a sense of adventure.
Many quieter villages and towns are known for their outdoor routes that cut through, and wind around, natural reserves and other protected areas. Exploring these trails, which will take you across various terrains, can be a process of exploration and discovery, too. Many have embraced the local wildlife and rediscovered its hidden beauty, including lesser-known bridleways and countryside nooks far away from popular parks.
Weeding, trimming and pruning has proven to be meditative for many. During lockdown, the garden was an escape from the routines of working from home. Gardening can offer many kinds of these escapes – from growing herbs, to weeding, and interactions with wildlife.
Many have transformed from amateur gardeners to veteran naturalists, embracing their garden as a private sanctuary. For those interested in sustainability, they’ve turned to gardening as a source of inspiration for cooking.
Whilst the reality of camping either in Scotland’s wild places or on a reserve with a permit may seem limited by lockdown measures, you can still arrange for future travels and practise camping in your garden. Camping in your own garden is a creative way to feel some freedom, while enjoying the outdoors.
In one account, a wheelchair user noticed how camping offered them a great escape. The new trend of camping from home describes a creative way to embrace getting out without risking your safety during the pandemic. It’s easy to plan and execute and requires a mix of resourcefulness and imagination to pull off.
4. Scenic exploration
Many of us have access to wild landscapes that can be exciting and enchanting. For those with nearby coastal walks, or tumbling and derelict acres of protected woodlands, consider a meditative stroll through the wildlife. Use this as an opportunity to learn and refamiliarise yourself with the natural world – listen to the sounds, take records of the sights, and enjoy the smells.
Wildlife retreats are often hidden oasis’ for peacefully exploring scenery. Exploration, as an activity,can be a kind of education of nature: don’t just passively stroll by, but absorb the natural world and try to understand it.
5. Think recreationally
Recreational hobbies like mindful walks, gardening or scenic exploration are great activities to enjoy outdoors. Fishing is one the few activities untouched by lockdown rules, with areas still allowing access to water resources for this kind of sport. Although, it’s becoming more of a recreational pastime, as many use fishing for meditation and mindfulness, because it requires patience and other similar emotional resources.
Time spent quietly reflecting on lake views can allow those with busy minds (and often busier lifestyles) to unplug and disconnect from the demands of everyday life, including technology.
By Toby St. George, Director at Lith Tech Mobility, one of the UK’s leading electric folding wheelchair suppliers.