It’s official: being outdoors is really good for you

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A Government report out earlier this month finds people who regularly visit their local ‘greenspace’ are more likely to feel healthy.

The survey results, published by Scottish Natural Heritage, shows most Scots are aware of the benefits the outdoors can bring to their physical and mental well-being. However, a third do not do any outdoors physical activity.

Scotland’s People and Nature Survey (SPANS) found regular visitors to their local greenspace are more likely to rate their health as good.

Innerleithen counsellor and therapist, Rab Erskine, has a private practice, but also runs a project for NHS Borders, working outdoors with people with mental health problems.

He said: “My role with the (NHS) psychiatric service is to engage the clients who find engagement and particularly engagement with psychiatry difficult, and nature certainly helps me in this work.

Places like Wooplaw wood and other forestry sites can play a big role, as well as the work that happens out at Glengaber Cottage and the surrounding area. People report feeling ‘more relaxed’ and ‘safe’ when out in nature and working with the therapeutic approach I offer.

“I choose to work in nature partly because my personal and professional experience (alongside research) indicates we are more relaxed in nature because on some level we feel that nature is still our home.

For some people sitting in a room talking about their problems is just too hard, whereas getting out to the woods, collecting wood for a fire and getting the kettle on is much more fun, and talking becomes much easier and more natural.”

SPANS was commissioned by SNH in 2013 with support from Forestry Commission Scotland, the national parks and Greenspace Scotland.

It provides information on numbers of people taking part in outdoor recreation, the sorts of activities they enjoy, how engaged they feel with the natural environment and the benefits they derive from being outdoors.

The full SPANS results will be published later this year at the end of September.