Did you know that spending time in nature can help you be physically active, reduce your blood pressure, boost your mood, and increase your vitamin D levels?
Living in Dorset we are blessed with many opportunities to be active outside – from a walk, ride or cycle in the countryside; a wander along a river, coast path, or the beach; a visit to a local park or nature reserve; or spending time gardening at home. Most people have access to some form of natural space either on your own or with family and friends and it’s largely free.
A number of studies show that exercising outdoors is more beneficial than at a gym. One study showed that those exercising outdoors do so for 30mins more than those at a gym. This may be down to the variety of experiences that getting outdoors gives, such as the seasons and weather. This may help you to repeat the activity so that it becomes a habit because it’s always a little bit different, even if it’s in the same outdoor space.
And you don’t have to be consciously ‘exercising’ to get the benefits. Conservation volunteering gets you active and also supports or improves your mental wellbeing. A study showed a 95% improvement for attendees with low wellbeing after attending conservation volunteering activities after a period of 6 weeks.
Within the county there are many nature-based activities or events which you can attend or join, to support your wellbeing. The Natural Choices programme brings many of these together, to make it easier for you to find out what’s on. There are over 60 activities across Dorset including practical conservation volunteering (e.g. hedge laying), gardening, health walks, nature walks, outdoor mindfulness, gardening, Nordic Walking and Park Yoga (in the summer).
Some activities are more physically demanding than others, but you can try different activities out to see what suits you and then maybe move onto something else as you get fitter. The activities are a great way to meet other people and social connection is great in supporting our wellbeing.
Natural Choices activities are run by organisations including Livability Holton Lee, National Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, RSPB, EuCAN, Bournemouth Parks, Country Parks including Durlson, Moors Valley, Avon Health and Upton and many of the Walking for Health groups across the county.
If you want to find out about Natural Choices activities near you search the Activity Finder and look for the Natural Choices logo and then contact the providers. You can also be signposted to the activities by the LiveWell Dorset Wellness Coaches if you'd like some support or by health and social care professionals such as GPs or Carers Support Team.
So why not try an activity, or just get outdoors and be healthy by nature!
By Maria Clarke, Dorset Local Nature Partnership Manager and Coordinator for Natural Choices
Durlston Country Park Volunteer
Try us out! Do as much or as little as you want. It is a flexible group so you do not have to go every week, some people come more than once a week, others come as and when they can. It’s very welcoming.