how nature walks can work wonders for your wellbeing

Would you believe us if we said office workers spend less time outdoors than prisoners? Crazy right? But true.

According to the UN guidelines, prisoners can and often spend at least one hour outside daily. Whereas UK workers spend just 15 minutes per day in the great outdoors, according to research. And with a noted increase in the hours that homeworkers are putting in, there’s a possibility that employees are spending even less time outside.

With that in mind, we’re urging employees to do what they can to encourage their people to get out of those same four walls, whether that’s in the office or at home, get some steps in and reconnect with nature.

Science-backed reasons your people need a nature fix

Psychologists and health researchers are constantly finding more and more reasons why we should all make more time to get outdoors. From boosting our immune systems and lowering blood pressure to improving memory and even helping to prevent cancer - there are significant physical health benefits to be had.

As for the mental health benefits, spending more time outside can help staff wellbeing in many ways, including:

o Reduce depression

Nature walks have been found to lower prefrontal cortex activity – the part of the brain that experiences repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions. While being outside in natural light can also help those that experience seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression.

o Lower stress and anxiety levels

Calming nature sounds and outdoor silence have been found to lower levels of the stress hormone - cortisol, calming the body’s fight-or-flight response.

o Improve focus

Research around attention restoration theory suggests that nature replenishes our cognitive resources – restoring the ability to concentrate and pay more attention.

o Increase creativity

Spending quality time outdoors can help to overcome creative mind blocks as studies show that nature has the ability to make us more curious and flexible in our way of thinking by recharging our directed attention.

All in all, heading out for a stroll and being close to nature can make us feel happier, healthier, and more productive – sounds like the ideal workforce to us!

How to encourage employees to spend more time outdoors

To reap in the above wellbeing benefits for your workforce, business leaders should be making a conscious effort to encourage their people to find time every day to reconnect with nature in some way.

Here in the North East we’re lucky enough to have some of the best nature attractions and scenery right on our doorsteps. Need some inspiration? Local businesses below have kindly shared their favourite walking spots:

From parks..

“My ‘happy place’ is Hardwick Park – it sort of became my sanctuary through lockdown. When we're busy, we forget to appreciate the little things: for me, it was appreciating the change in season as I visited through Spring, Summer and the beginning of Autumn and as cheesy as it sounds, getting to see the baby cygnets grow up.” Michael Weeks, Well Bee Kids

“I highly recommend Deer Park in Durham. There are 3 woodland walks weaving around ponds, castles and wildlife.” Steve Dougan, Teesside University

..To woodlands

“Cleveland way, I usually walk from Redcar or Saltburn to Staithes or a more challenging walk to Whitby. Also love a circular walk from Guisborough woods up to Roseberry topping, views are amazing.” Mark Thompson, UK Engineering Recruitment Ltd

“Hamsterley Forest is a good one, as is Derwent Reservoir in my experience.” Steven Thompson, Contented Writing

And beaches..

Through March, I starting walking 10km every day to earn money for Cancer Research UK (and loose a bit of lockdown timber) so I now have a favourite 10km I like to do from my house to the beach in Seaton Carew, all the way along it towards Teesmouth, and back again.” Matthew Protheroe-Hill, Sencode Cyber Security

“We walked Redcar to Saltburn and back the other week in the sun. Was a lovely walk across the sea front” Nick Rodgers, Project Escape

“I love getting out to the beach with the dog!” Joanna Andrews, Charm Theatrical Productions

..To everything in between!

“The fantastic wildlife spaces of Errington Woods (New Marske), Darlington South Park, Hartlepool Ward Jackson Park and Linthorpe Cemetery – our groups found these walks really good for their wellbeing and mental health.” – Pam Bennet, Going for Independence

“My fav walk is Ingleby Barwick to Yarm where you can see Llamas (honestly), sheep, a big statue of a Gorilla, the river Leven, Highland Cattle, lots of Wild Garlic/flowers and the occasional duck. Calling via Hutchinson Hobbs farm shop for a Malteser Rocky Road and a Pork and Apple pie (how Rock n Roll is my life!).” Pete Lillie, Presca Sportswear

“I have to be cliche but Roseberry Topping. I spent many weekends climbing it during my degree, feeling like I could scream away my stress at the top. I think there’s something about being high up, looking over Teesside that helps to refocus and readjust after a busy week.” Lauren Ridley, Studio Alma

“I love having the Teesaurus Park space within Riverside Park industrial estate... Really helps you break away from the office and push the reset button for the afternoon!” Robert Wilson, Process Group ECI Ltd

There are some great walks around Loftus and Saltburn. There is an organised Bluebell and Spring Flowers walk this week through The Mental Health Foundation.” Denise Nesbitt, Jon Nesbitt Engineering Ltd

“Two of my favourites are low to high force and back (from Bowlees visitors centre) and the circular walk around Scaling Dam. Both are nice walks and not too far for children to do.” Louise Roberts, Elliott Recruitment Solutions

Here at Key Wellbeing we can help you to create and implement a winning workforce wellbeing strategy, let’s talk :)