The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more Canadians to spend time outdoors than ever.

With extra time on our hands, we've seen runners, walkers and bikers popping up everywhere. Turns out this is a great way to cope with the realities of pandemic life. 

“In addition to meditation, getting outdoors is usually the first thing I recommend to people who are feeling anxious and down,” says Kim Jory, a GoodLife Fitness Manager. “There’s a real correlation between spending time in nature and reduced stress, better mood and an overall sense of calm.” 

Being outdoors has major health benefits, including exposure to Vitamin D from the sun. Health Canada recommends regular doses of Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium, and build and maintain strong bones and teeth. As little as 15 minutes a day in the sunlight can make a difference, but remember to wear sunscreen. 

Getting outdoors can also help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression related to the change in seasons. Regular exercise, especially outside in natural daylight, can be a powerful way to help fight SAD by boosting your body's serotonin and endorphin production. 

“Our bodies just need to move and exercise,” Jory says. “No one is saying to run a marathon, but just going outside and walking is huge physically and mentally. There are so many connections between what it does for our brain and our mood.” 

Jory emphasizes the connection between mind and body shouldn’t be overlooked and making time to get outdoors in all seasons should be a priority. 

Research shows more women reported very good or excellent general health if they were exercising outdoors (75%) compared with those who were not (49%).  

The benefits weren’t only physical. The same study found women reported very good or excellent mental health if they were exercising outdoors (54%) compared with those who were not (41%). 

“I don’t know anyone who hasn't felt the effects of pandemic safety restrictions on their mental and physical health, and that includes all age groups,” says Jory. “Children and teens are especially vulnerable right now when it comes to their mental health. I would say it’s more important than it’s ever been to get outside and start to incorporate some regular exercise into your routine.” 

In fact, a recent ParticipACTION survey confirmed getting active outdoors was one of the top ways to deal with the ongoing pandemic. The return to outdoor activities has been one positive coming out of the pandemic. 

“It’s almost like we’ve gone back in time a bit,says Jory. “We’re seeing families on walks as they explore their neighbourhoods. Kids are shooting hoops, throwing a football and want to be outdoors.”