Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic I have been reflecting on the role of sport and activity in our lives and the impact it has on our wellbeing.
Wellbeing is about:
- Feeling you are contributing to society.
- Your physical, emotional, and mental health.
- Living free from abuse and neglect.
- Having positive and safe relationships with others.
- Opportunities for social and economic stability.
- Opportunities to engage in work, study, or training.
Being active is of course crucial to achieving these. Yet we were asked to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives, only being allowed out once for activity. And those deemed to be extremely vulnerable to the virus were advised to stay at home and only go in the garden, where it was possible to be socially distant from neighbours.
When this was announced I was worried about our national wellbeing. I expected to see statistics later in the year showing how inactive we have become. Yet for many of us the opposite is true. Sport England’s recently reported that in fact we are appreciating how crucial being active is to our mental health.
Do Things That Make Us Feel Better
Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise to me. The success of Parkrun and other outdoor training initiatives in the past few years is in part down to using local spaces to get people together to exercise. Lockdown has nudged many more of us to follow that lead. Growing numbers of us are getting out into our communities to do things that make us feel better.
I live in Hull, an industrial city that is surrounded by beautiful East Yorkshire countryside and shoreline. The city, though, is not renowned for its beauty. So the lockdown has made me appreciate what I have locally, the things I can easily get to by walking or cycling. I used to go to an indoor leisure centre to swim, and to potter around a gym. Now I exercise outdoors in my local fields and urban spaces.
I have found paths along the river bank that I didn’t know existed. I’ve cycled through a deserted industrial area to reach the beautiful marina. Countless times I’ve noticed the hawthorn and heard the birds as I circled the playing field behind my home. My bike hadn’t left the garage since I moved here a year ago. But it’s now had a service from a local bike shop, where business is booming.
In England, from Wednesday 13 May 2020, the government relaxed lockdown regulations so that we could exercise outside as often as we wish. We can also sit and rest outside. Exercise or recreation can be a solitary activity, or you can do it with members of your household, or with 1 other person from outside your household so long as you stay two metres apart at all times. I have seen people in the fields practising long jump run ups, doing circuits of cones, and families playing cricket.
There are different restrictions in the other home countries. In Wales, people are cycling and playing golf, as golf clubs reopened on May 18th. You’re also allowed to fish from the land – but not from a boat. The situation for professionals is mixed.
And so yes, I have missed the leisure centre and the cappuccinos. But my wellbeing is OK thanks in a large part to my permitted daily outdoor exercise. I am hoping that one legacy of my lockdown experience is that my bike never gathers dust again!