Physical Activity Supporting Connection to Nature, and Helping to Maintain Wellbeing during the Covid-19 Restrictions in England

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 26;18(9):4585. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094585.


The Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease led to anxiety, concern and stress for many people. In England restrictions varied at different times of the year, and throughout this time there was a lot of attention focused on the importance of exercise and on engaging with nature to maintain wellbeing. We undertook an online survey that ran for six weeks in June/July 2020 and gained a response from 2115 people, of which 25% were male and 74% female, with 35% aged 16-44 and 65% aged 45+. This survey focused on people who were already interested or engaged with nature. We explored whether being physically activity changed or not, if being active impacted people's wellbeing and whether those who were active benefited from connecting to nature. We found that those meeting the government recommended levels of physical activity in the previous week, of 150 min, were more likely to maintain their overall wellbeing through feeling that the things they did in their life were worthwhile (p < 0.0001) and reported an increase in feelings of connection to nature (p < 0.0001). While those who did less than 30 min of physical activity in the previous week were less happy (p < 0.0001) and more anxious than usual (p < 0.0001). The research highlights the importance of physical activity and contact with nature and how these can play important roles in maintaining people's everyday wellbeing under extremely difficult national circumstances.

Keywords: motivations; nature; nature connection; physical activity; trees and woodlands; wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • England
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2