Royal Parks are challenging people to get out for 20 minutes to stave off lockdown blues.

By Julia Gregory

Londoners are being challenged to get out and about for a 20-minute mood boost in the great outdoors.

Throughout this year, parks and open spaces have offered people respite from the challenges of coronavirus.

So the team at the Royal Parks which cares for eight of London’s best loved open spaces are challenging people to get out for just 20 minutes with their Welcome Winter campaign as a way to stave off the lockdown blues.

They urge people to wrap up warm or pick up a brolly to enjoy nature on their doorstep and get outside with members of their support bubble or one other person, allowed during the national restrictions.

People using the parks have said they enjoy “coming to relax and looking at nature” and spending time with friends.

Others told park staff they relished “getting some fresh air” or finding “a good place to wander away from where we work”.

Park goers in central London. Copyright The Royal Parks

According to Public Health England the challenges of the pandemic saw anxiety, depression and stress went up eight per cent in March and April compared with 2017-19. Adults with low incomes or less space at home were particularly affected.

Recently GP Abi Berger told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that getting outside was her top tip for coping with lockdown.

The Royal Parks’ chief executive, Andrew Scattergood, said: “The parks were a lifeline for many Londoners during the first lockdown, staying open throughout and providing beautiful, free spaces for Londoners to stay healthy and lift their mood. And the parks remain here for everyone now, as a refuge for whoever needs them.”

He added: “It may be cold outside but we know that being outdoors, seeing trees, hearing birdsong, seeing the sky and feeling in contact with nature are associated with increased levels of happiness and wellbeing. It’s never been more important to look after ourselves than now. Put simply, a walk in the park makes you feel better.”

The charity which looks after St James’s Park beside Buckingham Palace as well as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, is also urging people to leave their cars at homes during the busier weekends and lunch hours.

However the early hours and weekdays are quieter, they said.

The London director of Public Health England, Professor Kevin Fenton, backed the “welcome winter” challenge.

“2020 has been a tough year for many of us but getting active could make a difference to your wellbeing this winter. To stay healthy, it’s really important to take care of our minds as well as our bodies and that’s why I’m encouraging Londoners to safely take a daily 20-minute walk,” he said.

“While we will be spending more time indoors this winter, evidence shows that green environments can promote and protect good health. The green space we have across London’s parks is incredible and a great place to get outside.”

He reminded people to take care whilst getting a breather.

“When leaving our homes for exercise, it’s important that we stay safe by only meeting with people we live with, support bubbles, or with one other person while we’re under national restrictions. Remember to wash your hands regularly, keep your distance from others and get tested if you or your household have any symptoms of Covid-19.”

Pictured top: Park goers in central London. Copyright The Royal Parks 

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