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‘Get outside, be happy’: poll reveals over a third of respondents getting outdoors more since COVID

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they were spending more time in nature
A bike outing in May, 2021. Cindy Sleeman is in the green helmet on the far right. The rest of the bikers from left to right are: Mel Wrigglesworth, Wendy Howse, Michelle Nelson. (Courtesy of CIndy Sleeman)

A Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) commissioned survey recently resulted in over a third of respondents saying that they are spending more time in nature since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The national public opinion poll was done by Ipsos Public Affairs, says a Jan. 23 press release from the NCC.

The poll “reveals that 82 per cent of the people surveyed are spending time in nature. Thirty-seven per cent said they are spending more time outdoors compared to their lives before the pandemic began in March 2020. Among respondents, women, young people and young families were most likely to be spending more time outside.”

“These findings underscore why protecting and having access to nature is important and helps all of us,” said François Duclos, senior advisor for visitor-use planning with NCC.

“Nature is our ally. Spending time in nature can help reduce stress and make us feel better emotionally, while also contributing to physical wellbeing,” said Ginny Hudson, manger of conservation planning and stewardship with NCC in B.C.

“Even going for a short walk in nature can bring a sense of calm and help improve our moods and concentration.”

Cindy Sleeman of Fernie is an outdoor-activity enthusiast who helps get people in the community outside for free and social activities in nature. She uses local Facebook pages to help spread the word and organize outdoor outings. Facebook groups like Elk Valley Hikes and Fernie Fatbike are active with people connecting and sharing information about trails, rides and hikes.

READ MORE: Hundreds of fatbikers hit the trails for fatbike day

Sleeman said she loves to post social rides or fun events to get people out, whether it be for fat biking, regular biking in the summer, or hiking, among other activities.

“I would say that it’s good to have fun events, or unique events, or different ways to get people outside,” Sleeman said.

“I think everybody knows that one person who maybe wants to be invited out, but it’s conflicts in schedule or doesn’t really know anyone, and so it ties right in with that mental health.”

“I find in communities it’s really important to do shoutouts and try and create free social groups for people to come out, because it helps the whole community.”

She has been involved with outdoor activity groups since 2013-2014, when she was living in Calgary. She moved to Fernie in November of 2017.

Regarding outdoor activity in Fernie, she said she has “definitely” seen an increase.

She said she saw a spike during COVID, but that “with increased tourism and desire to be in Fernie,” she has really noticed the uptick over the last five years.

Sleeman emphasized the point that with increased usage also comes increased need to maintain trails.

“I think getting outside is great. But then people have to, I think, be socially responsible, or environmentally responsible.”

“If I’m going to increase my activity outside, how am I contributing to what I do outside?”

Sleeman’s suggestion was to donate or become a member in local trail groups.

For her part, she said she has donated to the Coal Creek Heritage Society and has a membership with the Fernie Trails Alliance.

“Get outside, be happy,” she said.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a true winter’: Montane and Ridgemont trails ready for winter use


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