The Benefits of Escaping into Nature
February 24th, 2022
For the majority of Ontarians, the amount of time spent in nature has increased during the pandemic. Whether that means going for a walk in a nearby park or cycling along the shores of Lake Ontario, a lot of us have turned to nature for the many benefits it provides. As for me, I have explored nearby ponds to watch the painted turtles basking in the late afternoon sun and even saw my first bullfrog this past summer! I’ve spent many weekends exploring the Cambridge to Paris Rail-Trail, which lines the Grand River, to see the Canadian Geese raising their young.
Whether that means going for a walk in a nearby park or cycling along the shores of Lake Ontario, a lot of us have turned to nature for the many benefits it provides."
A new survey completed by the Greenbelt Foundation in partnership with The Strategic Counsel, The Greenbelt Value of Nature Survey for Recreation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, has analyzed the trends in accessing nature for recreation across the Greater Golden Horseshoe and shows the importance of nature for our mental and physical well-being. The survey sampled 1,253 Ontarians between July and August last year and found that over the one-year study period, 85 per cent of adults living in the Greater Golden Horseshoe participated in nature-based activities, many of which cite mental and physical health benefits as their reason for doing so. This is important as it provides concrete evidence for the significant contribution that nature makes to our quality of life. These findings, along with additional research completed by the Greenbelt Foundation such as the 2020 report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate, reminds us how important it is to protect and invest in nature.
Ontario’s Greenbelt offers an abundance of recreational activities, and its inherent value is evident in the data. For those living in major urban areas without access to private or public greenspaces, Ontario’s Greenbelt is more important than ever. According to the research, approximately 3.7 million people–representing about half of the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s population–travelled to a Greenbelt destination to engage in a nature-based activity like hiking or cycling over the one-year period. And this isn’t all that surprising as the Greenbelt’s vital landscapes are ideal places for people to connect with nature. From the breathtaking views of the Niagara Escarpment to the diverse trail systems, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
During the pandemic, we have seen how important parks and natural areas are to our well-being. As we continue to recover from COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to find balance in our busy lives and experience our province’s natural spaces. The research makes it clear – nature plays a vital role in reducing stress, improving our physical health, and connecting us with each other.
If you are interested in reading the full report, you can access it here.
To hear more about the key findings from the survey, watch a short webinar here.
To read our previous blogs, please click here.
Megan Sipos is a Research and Policy Analyst with the Greenbelt Foundation.