As I write this over 3/4 of the Australian population are in lockdown; Brisbane, New South Wales, Victoria, and Adelaide. For many, it seems it’s “here we go again” as Victorians have tipped just over 190 days in lockdown between 2020 – 2021, that’s over half a calendar year!
For the strict lockdowns that have been enforced, this means a restriction of 5kms of your house and only 5 major reasons to leave your home:
- Purchase food
- Medical caregiving or appointments
- Work, if it is essential and cannot be done from home
- Getting a vaccine
For so many this is a disruption to ‘normal’ daily life, and it seems everything is going online; work, meetings, education, shopping, and connection with friends. Across the globe during this pandemic there have been so many people restricted to indoors; parts of countries in strict lockdowns, those living in apartment buildings, people undertaking hotel quarantine, those in isolation.
Do we need the outdoors?
Mental Health, social interaction, job security, and job satisfaction have been at the forefront of issues described by so many living in these restrictions; but what about our interaction with the outdoors? There is a plethora of research in this area in regards to the benefits of being outdoors on all elements of our health.
The World Health Organisation defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So how does the outdoors affect these areas of our health?
It has been documented that unfortunately, 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition at some point in their life. Research on the effects of outdoors showing that even just 5mins of viewing a green space can help recovery post-stress, whilst the more natural the view from a girl's window increased her academic performance by up to 20%.
Can the ‘outdoors’ be prescribed by doctors instead of medications? It seems so, in Scotland this niche area of medicine is now gaining traction and alongside Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) as exercise and time in nature outdoors is being prescribed as Green scripts by doctors.
Research in a hospital setting showed patients who were able to spend some of their recovery time outdoors, or at least with a view overlooking a natural environment needed less pain-relief medication in their recovery period.
The outdoors has been used for years on school camps, and studies into this area highlight that aspects of a person’s; self-control, resilience, confidence, cooperation, development of responsibility, and empathy in a team setting have all grown as a result of intentional outdoor programs.
Relational studies showed that outdoor camps were the catalyst for relationship building within cohorts of students as “The challenging environment had forged connectedness, belonging, understanding, respect, and an alignment of purpose and goals” (p. 14).
In a secular child psychology study when describing a significant spiritual experience, 80% of respondents described this occurring in the outdoors using terms such as; nature, mountainside, hills, lake, seas, and rivers. Thomas Aquinas [1224-1274] proposed that “Sacred writings are bound in two volumes – that of creation and that of Holy Scripture” (Aquinas, 1273, p. 59).
Through creation, so many people see the artistic and creative nature of God. Some propose that God's first introduction to humans in the Bible lays the foundation for who he is; Creator. What better place to see this creator at work than in His creation.
Overall it can be seen that time in the outdoors is beneficial to so many aspects of our health from a range of research. During this time of lockdown for so many in our country and across the globe the outcomes of these studies show how important it is to balance the indoor screen time with outdoor time.
More information on this topic can be accessed through the article Being Outdoors: What educators can learn from cross disciplinary research on the benefits of the outdoors on health.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.