Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography.
Ann Evans asks how you are spending that precious hour out of lockdown.
While life as we knew it has been put on hold, and a halt has been put on the majority of the things we took for granted, one thing that carries on as usual is Mother Nature. The grass is growing, flowers are bursting through the earth, greenery is dressing those stark tree branches and the birds are singing. In fact, more and more people are becoming aware of birdsong and nature, as life slows right down with no crowds, less noise, less traffic and less pollution.
For many, the hour’s exercise we take every day is the highlight of the day, and while we are restricted as to where we can go and what we can do in order to keep within the social distancing guidelines, if you have a park or open countryside within walking distance, then make the most of it because it will do you the power of good.
Walking has always been good for us – body and mind. Physically, it’s a free, low impact exercise that doesn’t hurt the environment. It gets our joints and muscles working, it helps keep the weight down as we burn up calories and tone up the legs and body. It helps our heart stay healthy by increasing ‘good’ cholesterol and reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of developing high blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. In short, actively walking helps prevent many serious health problems.
Getting out for a walk in the fresh air is also wonderful for clearing the mind and putting things into perspective. Walking activates soothing neurons on the brain to help cope with subsequent stressors. Studies have also shown that active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than people who are sedentary, and walking can elevate mood in those suffering from anxiety and depression. A walk in the fresh air and daylight also provides us with a boost of Vitamin D.
If you have a woodland area to walk then all the better as trees are natural air filters, trapping pollutants on their leaves and bark. So, a daily dose of woodland exercise could be just what the doctor orders – remember social distancing however!
The National Garden Scheme have this to say: “As well as improving air quality, trees provide us with precious space for relaxation and exercise. Taking a daily dose of exercise in trees or woodland can improve self-esteem and mood and reduce anxiety disorders and depression.
“It’s not just the physiological effects of exercise, such as the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that cause these responses either – studies have shown that regular use of woods or parks for physical exercise reduced the risk of poor mental health, whereas no such pattern was found in non-natural settings like gyms.
“Regular access to woodland has been found to reduce stress for people with dementia and the cooling effect of urban trees in cities can reduce the impact of heatwaves. Simply having views of trees, plants and shrubs from a hospital window can decrease patient recovery time and similar views at work – whether that’s in the office or working from home – can increase employee wellbeing. So next time you feel life getting on top of you escape to the garden or take a walk in your local wood. You’re pretty much guaranteed to feel better for it.”
But if you can’t get out, then enjoy a virtual stroll through some woodland areas will boost your mood. Here’s just a few you can enjoy without leaving your home. The NGS are adding more virtual garden visits every week:
Woodview in Ross-on-Wye.
Stillingfleet in Yorkshire.
Woodlands Farm, Monmouthshire.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Kent.
Tree ID App
If you are able to enjoy a woodland walk, why not learn more about the trees all around you with The Woodland Trust’s free Tree ID app for Android and iPhone to identify the UK’s native and non-native trees. It’s an A-Z tree guide in your pocket.
In just a few steps you can identify native and common non-native trees in the UK whatever the season using leaves, bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit.
Further information: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/