The coronavirus pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes in our lives. Facets of our daily lives from how we work, study, interact with others to simple tasks as going to the grocery store were massively altered.
Lockdown and Quarantine Period
At the peak of this pandemic, most of us were driven indoors. Avoiding the outdoors became a recognized key to stop the spread of COVID19. With limited movement and outside freedom, we missed outdoor activities, nature, and fresh air – things that we have usually taken for granted.
During this time, trips outside were only allowed for getting essentials. Walking, running, and jogging was allowed and many did not pass on this opportunity. Even those (and especially) who were not physically active hopped in the wagon and partook in exercising outdoors. A way to keep fit, keep sane, or simply to take a break from being confined at home.
On the other hand, the outdoorsy, nature, and sports enthusiasts also gained a renewed appreciation for what used to be ‘free’.
Photo by: Tony Litvyak
Keeping active was just part of the reason why many of us resorted to outdoor exercises. For the most part, the fresh air, open space, and nature were a respite from spending a lot of time indoors. It brought refreshment especially when our physical social connection was sparse. Outdoors and nature is a remedy that in this time of coronavirus many rediscovered.
Director of UChicago’s Environmental Neuroscience Lab, Berman has explored how interactions with nature can impact cognitive performance.
“If a city doesn’t have enough green space for the amount of people who live there, that’s a public health issue,” said Assoc. Prof. Marc Berman, a leading expert on how environmental factors can affect the brain and behavior.
“Our research has found that nature is not an amenity—it’s a necessity. We need to take it seriously.”
Easing of Lockdown and Restrictions
In most countries where lockdown and restrictions were lifted, things are slowly going back to normal. Precautions are put in place everywhere for our safety.
Despite this and the fact that coronavirus is still around, many of us aren’t still comfortable going inside crowded establishments such as malls, gyms, cinemas, schools, supermarkets. Unless needed, we tend to avoid these places. Recreation and sports are continuing to grow in hiking trails, open fields, beaches, shores, open parks, or backyards.
With the rediscovery of nature and the outdoors, we also found amazing places to explore that are close to home and we ignored during pre-corona times. Nice places and chances for adventure are not always on the other side of the world.
Ironically, the ‘indoors’ opened up a door of appreciation of the ‘outdoors’.
Is It Really Safe Outdoors?
“The good news: Interviews show a growing consensus among experts that, if Americans are going to leave their homes, it’s safer to be outside than in the office or the mall. With fresh air and more space between people, the risk goes down. (New York Times)”.
This is a conclusion most of us believe based on what we know about the coronavirus. Sadly, there had been numerous instances where governments had to close outdoor recreational areas due to overcrowding and non-compliance.
Let us continue to enjoy our precious time outdoors by abiding with the rules and following precautions set for our and everyone’s safety.
Keeping Safe Outdoors
Let us all do our part in keeping ourselves and others safe. When venturing out to trails, beaches, and parks or simply out in our neighborhood, follow rules and precautions.
A recently launched coalition of government agencies, nonprofits, outdoor businesses, and land managers in the USA has put together fitting guidelines on how to #RecreateResponsibly.
The coalition is brought together by a love of the outdoors and a desire to help everyone safely enjoy the benefits of nature especially in this time of COVID-19. For hikers and anyone going for outdoor recreation, here are the guidelines from @outdooralliance :
- Know Before You Go. Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a plan B.
- Plan Ahead. Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
- Stay Close to Home. This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Most places are only open for day use.
- Practice Physical Distancing. Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
- Play It Safe. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
- Leave No Trace. Respect public lands and communities and take all your garbage with you.
You best know what the situation is in your locality. Adjust and follow accordingly.
Amidst the chaos, coronavirus brought about many opportunities and good changes.
Some of its positive aspects are:
- The fewer carbon emissions and lesser pollution that led to cleaner air and clearer waterways.
- COVID19 also refocused our ways of hygiene.
- A much-deserved appreciation was given to not just our medical workers but other less-recognized essential workers such as supermarket cashiers, cleaners, delivery drivers.
We slowed down and altered ‘how’ we function in our daily lives showing us our ability to adapt and flourish in times of adversity.
The outdoors has kept us in tune and soothed us through these hard times. Maybe this is nature’s way of reminding us to keep looking at and to the bright side.
That this, too, shall pass!
Photo by: Daniel Burka