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Acting for Nature & Wellbeing

Friday 7th November

Acting for Nature & Wellbeing

A vast amount of research has emerged over recent years, clearly linking the health of our environment with the health of human beings. Only 1 in 10 children play outside regularly in wild places - a generation ago it was 50%. Levels of inactivity and obesity are escalating; poor mental health is having a significant impact on wellbeing; climate change is already affecting urban areas and the productivity of the countryside; many villages, towns and cities face growing risk of flooding and the UK economy continues to use much of the natural world in an unsustainable way.

 It’s clear that this needs to change for the sake of the planet and for quality of life here in England. A Nature and Wellbeing Act could help achieve this. The Wildlife Trusts together with the RSPB want to see this changed within a generation and are calling for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act.

The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is leading the fight for nature and wellbeing, having long recognised the health importance of contact with the natural world. For the past ten years, volunteers have been leading ‘Health Walks’ at Wildlife Trust sites, like the Attenborough Nature Reserve. Studies show that, in general, individuals with easy access to nature are three times more likely to participate in physical activity and 40% less likely to become overweight or obese. Importantly, “green exercise” (exercise that takes place in natural spaces) seems to have an enhanced health benefit, providing greater health benefits than contact with nature or physical activity alone.

Now Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has plans to take this a step further and will be launching ‘memory walks’ in the New Year to help dementia sufferers and their carers to live well with the condition. The walks will aim to engage the senses and help build new memories for families.

Accessible green space is good for psychological wellbeing too; improving recovery and protecting people from stress and improving concentration. Green space quality, including its richness in wildlife, may be more important to mental health benefits than its quantity. People living near quality green space, full of wildlife and thriving habitats, are twice as likely to report low psychological distress as those living near low quality open spaces.

The ‘Recovery’ project run by the Wildlife Trust in conjunction with MIND recently received funding from Bassetlaw Law Clinical Commissioning Group and supports people who suffer with their mental health. The project was a key case study providing evidence for the call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act, and is currently based at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve. ‘Recovery’ delivers eco-therapy relating to horticulture and conservation-based tasks; immersing service users in the natural world and providing real quality contact and respite. The service is free to use on referral or self-referral and it’s hoped that it will be rolled out county-wide.

There’s no mistaking the feeling of wellbeing nature gives to people, but the natural world needs help too. A Nature and Wellbeing Act could help build resilience to climate change, disease, pollution, flooding and loss of biodiversity by creating a coherent network of natural spaces for people and wildlife. Ultimately, both are the same thing.

Click here to sign the Nature & Wellbeing Act. Why not join the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust or make a one off donation to help support our fantastic projects.

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