A new survey finds that Canadians are ready to experience the health benefits of being outdoors
TORONTO, June 24, 2021 – With Canadian provinces beginning to emerge from recent stay-at-home orders and warm weather finally approaching, there is no better time to get outside and be immersed in nature. The survey, by Mazda Canada, has found that Canadians enjoy spending time in nature and 90 per cent agree it is ‘great’ for their mental and physical health. Although time spent in nature has decreased per week since the onset of COVID-19, Canadians aspire to spend 18 hours a week outdoors this summer.
“Our survey found that 70 per cent of respondents say they lack motivation or don’t have the time, which is a common COVID-19 theme I’m seeing”, says Dr. Nicole Porter, Stress Coach and Wellness Educator and partner for Mazda Canada. “However, what I’ve found in my practice, is that when people get outside and spend time in nature, it can have a major impact on their mental health and overall happiness.”
Other findings from the survey include:
- 87% of Canadians agree that being in nature reduces their stress levels and 68% agree it increases their productivity.
- Walking or hiking is the most popular outdoor activity among Canadians (81%).
- Those who identify as female are more enthusiastic about spending time in nature than those who identify as male. They are also more likely to enjoy outdoor recreation activities like walking or hiking (85%), going out on a lake, river or ocean (54%) and picnics (51%).
- Canadians spent less time in nature during COVID-19; 7 hours per week, down from 10 hours pre-pandemic
- Lack of motivation (35%) and not having enough time (35%) are the biggest barriers to spending time in nature for Canadians.
Aside from the undeniable beauty that Canada’s forests and nature have to offer, there are many health benefits to being immersed in nature. In Japan, this concept is called shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” It’s an antidote to the high-tech, always-on culture of today.
Dr. Porter explains further: “Being in nature is like putting your foot on the brake, and when it comes to our health, our bodies are relying on us to slow down more often. There are so many benefits to spending time in nature, just a few of these include:
- Improves sleep: Sleep is the only time our bodies and brains have to recover from the stresses of the day. Exposure to sunlight (even behind grey clouds) during the day increases our melatonin production at night – a natural hormone that is produced in the brain, which helps regulate our sleep cycle and promotes consistent, quality rest.
- Reduces stress: Being in nature calms our senses. There is less stress on our nerves, our nervous system and our brain when we connect with nature, and therefore less stress on our body. With our nervous system calm, it means our bodies are in ‘Rest and Digest’ mode which offers key benefits such as improved digestion, immunity, cognitive health, memory and mood.
- Improves focus and productivity: The brain is like a muscle; it needs to be trained in order to stay fit. With new things to see, smell, touch, hear, and maybe even taste, nature provides an opportunity to experience an entirely different environment. This is where brain training comes in – if we mindfully use our senses to pay attention in nature, it is like training our brain to focus. And where there’s focus, there’s productivity.