There are lots of good reasons to be active outside...
It's fantastic for your physical health
Being physically active is good for your health wherever you do it, but taking your activity outside brings additional benefits. Studies have suggested that walking or jogging outdoors can bring down your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Fresh air helps promote good sleep, while sunshine gives you essential vitamin D. So building some outdoor activity into your routine can help you feel good and stay healthy during the Covid pandemic and beyond.
It supports your mental health and wellbeing
Numerous studies have found that spending time in nature has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. Stepping out into green spaces for your walk or run gives an extra lift to your mood and increases your feelings of self-esteem. And woods, fields, and parks are great places to practise mindfulness - taking some time out of your busy schedule to relax and use your senses to reflect on your natural surroundings.
Missing meeting up with friends at work, the gym, or coffee shop? You can still meet up with one other person outdoors and being active together is a great way to reconnect with people, build relationships and reduce feelings of isolation.
It's easy to maintain social distancing
Norfolk is blessed with thousands of square miles of open space, from its stunning coastline to the peaceful Broads, the big skies of the Fens, and the Breckland forests. Not to forget the many green spaces and riverside paths of the fine city of Norwich! Norfolk has about 2,400 miles of public footpaths to explore, with over 1,200 miles of walks, cycle paths and bridleways brought together in the Norfolk Trails network. So you're never far from a quiet spot where you can safely exercise while sticking to social distancing guidelines.
It's free, it's always open, and it's for everyone
You don't need to buy a ticket to get outside and be active, or any special equipment apart from comfy footwear and clothing suitable for the great British weather! Whether it's a stroll with the kids to the local playground, a sunny afternoon on the beach, or a jog around the block with a friend, it's all free for you to enjoy whenever you want to.
Norfolk has many easy access paths and boardwalks which are accessible for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility, as well as families with pushchairs. See the accessible resources section below to find out more.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
Spending time in nature can be great for your mental health. For 2021, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is 'Nature and the environment'. Ongoing research by the mental health foundation suggests that access to nature has been one of the main ways people have supported their mental health during lockdown.
In Norfolk, we're extremely lucky to have many natural places of beauty to explore. Find places to explore below, and be sure to share your experiences during mental health week (10 - 16 March 2021).
Find inspiration and cultivate a sense of peace by connecting with nature. Download the Mental Health Foundation and WWF's free Thriving With Nature guide to make the most of the UK's natural spaces for mental health and wellbeing, all year round.
Find places to get active outdoors
- Discover 1,425 miles of walks, cycle paths, and bridle routes along the Norfolk Trails. Explore hundreds of miles of long-distance paths, take a gentle stroll around a circular route, or discover the county's coastal treasures. Use the interactive map to find a route near you.
- Indulge in a spot of forest bathing at dozens of Woodland Trust sites across the county - find a woodland near you.
- Get close to nature on your doorstep at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's many reserves. A few are still closed to visitors - check the website for details.
- The Forestry Commission looks after sites across Norfolk including the UK's largest manmade lowland forest, the 18,730-hectare Thetford Forest. Use their map to find a forest site near you.
- The National Trust looks after some stunning coast and countryside in Norfolk, and some sites remain open to the public. If you're travelling by car you'll need to book and pay for parking in advance at some of them - check the website to see what's open and to book.
- Want to get out and about on two wheels? Check out cycle routes along the Norfolk Trails, or explore 58 miles of pedalways across Norwich.
- The GetOutside app is packed with ideas on things to do, both with the kids and if you're riding solo. It includes hidden away walking trails, and the best tested routes with coffee and cake stops on the way for that added motivation!
Find accessible places to enjoy
- The National Trust has details of accessible walks in Norfolk and across East Anglia.
- The Broads Authority's Access For All web page includes an Easier Access Guide for outdoor activities in the national park.
- ActiveTrails are a group of disabled people who enjoy the countryside and all it has to offer. Find out how they support people affected by disability to access the countryside.
- The Nancy Oldfield Trust provides opportunities for people who are disabled or disadvantaged to enjoy outdoor activities in the Norfolk Broads.
- Norfolk Trails' Access Tested Walks include booklets with key information such as practical details and route maps and descriptions. Download them here.
- Norfolk Easy Ambles are a series of walks that have been designed for people living with dementia to enjoy with their carers. You can download walk leaflets here for free.
- The Norfolk Coast Partnership have selected a range of accessible for walks for everyone to enjoy the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Stay Safe Outdoors
Now more than ever it's important to make sure that we're all doing our bit to make being outdoors safe for everyone.
You can now exercise alone, with members of your household, or with up to 1 other person from outside your household. For more detailed guidance see the Gov.uk website.
Here are some useful resources to review before heading out:
- The Ordnance Survey's GetOutside campaign has tips and inspiration for enjoying the outdoors safely during the Covid pandemic.
- The Woodland Trust has produced a useful guide to walking safely in the outdoors.
- Wherever you're going, don't forget to follow the Countryside Code.
More apps and resources
Build up your walking confidence
- Motivate yourself to move more with the free NHS Active10 app. It records how much walking you're doing and sets you goals for doing more. Download it for free here.
- Moving Medicine's 12-week My Pace Up walking programme gives you a gradual, structured approach to increasing the amount you walk each week. Download it for free here.