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How has lockdown changed our relationship with nature? - Office for National Statistics

More than a year on from the first national lockdown in spring 2020, we look at how people's perception of nature changed during the pandemic and whether this is likely to continue as restrictions ease.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced people to interact with familiar surroundings in new ways. While bedrooms have become offices, gardens – and the areas within walking distance of home – have become wildlife-watching spots and gyms. Nature has been a source of solace for many, as lockdown rules have heightened our appreciation for local parks and green spaces.

Drawing on several sources, we look at the impact of lockdown on exercise levels, usage of public green spaces and the link between nature and wellbeing.

Has the pandemic changed our relationship with the outdoors forever?

People exercised more during lockdowns, when there was less to do

During the first coronavirus lockdown, many people filled their free time with exercise. As restrictions limited other leisure activities, exercise levels increased.

This could partly be down to higher levels of homeworking. New analysis shows that homeworkers have been more likely to leave the house for exercise during the pandemic than people with a daily commute.

Around one in three workers (33%) were based exclusively at home in the spring 2020 lockdown (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) survey, 14 to 17 May 2020); this had dropped to around one in five (20%) by late summer (26 to 30 August 2020), when restrictions had been eased.

Between 7 and 11 April 2021, 28% of working adults worked exclusively from home. More than three-quarters (76%) of people who only worked from home in this period had left home for exercise in the previous seven days, compared with 52% of people who only travelled to work. Those working from home were also more likely to visit a park or local green space than those who travelled to work (45% compared with 30%).

Charities such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust saw spikes in web traffic in the first national lockdown. Visits to the RSPB website increased by 69% year-on-year in March to May 2020 with 79% of those users being new to the website. In the same period, the RSPB recorded a tenfold increase in views of its Build a bird box web page.

Posted on: 27 April 2021

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