More people spending time outdoors. New survey reveals importance of nature to Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19

20 July 2020

Lockdown in Scotland saw an increase in the number of people visiting the outdoors to enjoy nature and stay healthy, according to a report by NatureScot.

The results of the first comprehensive, independent survey of our relationship with nature during lockdown, demonstrate that more Scots, concerned about their wellbeing, are turning to nature as they recover from the pandemic. To grow that enthusiasm NatureScot has today launched a campaign, Make Space for Nature.

The 1,000 people surveyed revealed that Scots took more outdoor exercise and expect to continue this as restrictions lift, with:

  • 70% citing health as a motivator for getting outdoors
  • More than 1 in 3 people specifically referencing managing stress as a reason for exercising outdoors (35%)
  • 63% of those stating their experiences had helped them de-stress, relax and unwind, and 58% felt energised and revitalised.

Make Space for Nature encourages people to further explore simple, fun activities that can help nature thrive – from submitting sightings of birds, frogs, and butterflies - to swapping pollinator-friendly plant cuttings with friends and even learning to love weeds – a great food source for pollinators.

The survey also shows:

  • 34% of Scots getting a daily dose of nature, compared to 22% prior to lockdown.  
  • 71% heading outside at least once a week, up from 59%.
  • 89% of outdoor visitors took regular local walks (an increase from 77%) and around 20% running or cycling (up from 5%).

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska linked the heightened importance of nature to recovery from Covid-19. “Nature is at the heart of our emergence from this crisis. The results from this survey reinforce just how important nature is for all of us – both physically through exercising and emotionally for our mental health.”

Levels of participation in nature focused activities increased significantly during lockdown – many relaxed in their garden (62%), took part in gardening (42%), enjoyed wildlife in their garden (36%) and enjoyed watching wildlife from indoors through a window (30%).

Francesca added: “During lockdown, activities such as noticing birds and wildlife, and the change in seasons, were relatively high, even among those who rarely or never visited the outdoors. These people have made an important first step in loving nature and experiencing all the benefits. We want to help them keep it up.”

NatureScot wants to capitalise on this renewed interest in nature and getting outdoors by launching ‘Make Space for Nature’ a campaign to encourage everyone to continue to make space for nature in their lives - be it a daily walk or taking a mindful minute to listen to birdsong. Giving something back through nature volunteering or contributing to nature surveys are also great ways to make space for nature in your day, and crucial to help us understand and improve the state of Scotland’s nature for the future.

Francesca concluded: “These survey results and the enthusiastic response to the Make Space for Nature campaign gives us confidence that Scotland is well placed to reverse the decline in diversity of animal and plant species in Scotland. As the need for nature is ever more apparent, the way Scotland recovers from Covid-19 could be one important way we secure a nature rich future for generations to come.”

You can view the report ‘Enjoying the outdoors: Outdoor visit behaviour and engagement with nature in Scotland during the Coronavirus lockdown’, produced in association with Scottish Forestry, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Paths for All.