Spring forward

The doom and gloom of the winter months is almost behind us, bringing a brighter, happier time with it. Spring is, believe it or not, full of health benefits – and plenty of ways to take advantage of them…

Longer days, slightly warmer weather, daffodils, fluffy chicks and the promise of getting to eat chocolate for fun – spring is definitely making a strong case for being the best season of the year.

As well as having meteorological and cute-factor benefits, spring has lots of other positives – there are more opportunities to get out and get active, which comes with a whole host of health benefits. Outdoor activity – whether you’re taking part in a high-energy sport or opting for a gentle walk – is great for your mental and physical wellbeing. Outdoor exercise is more challenging physically – an uphill walk, for instance, is going to push you more than a spell on a treadmill. You’ll also absorb vitamin D from the sun when it decides to show face, which in turn boosts your immune system. Time in the great outdoors is also good for your mental health. With so much to gain, how can you take advantage of the great outdoors this spring?

A walk on the wild side

Springtime in Britain has a special attraction that anyone can access – bluebells. Half of the world’s bluebell woods are found in the UK, and many of these woodland trails have got fantastic access too.  The 850-acre Heartwood Forest in Herts, for instance, has wheelchair accessible trails, meaning just about anyone can check out the wild butterflies and bluebells that the woods have to offer. Going for a walk outside is great for your mental health too – stats gathered by mental health charity Mind showed that, in a group people who walked outdoors, 90% felt that their self esteem had increased, while 44% of a group who walked indoors in a shopping centre felt that their self esteem reduced. The best news? A walk outdoors is totally free! Find your nearest accessible bluebell trail at www.visitwoods.org.uk.

Outdoor activity is also available on your doorstep – or, more specifically, in your garden. Gardening is good physical exercise and you get the satisfaction of seeing your garden grow, whether you’ve got sprawling flower beds in your back garden, tubs on your balcony or space in a local allotment. Gardening charity Thrive works with people of all ages and abilities, where they get green-fingered as a form of therapy. Get in touch with the charity for details of local projects.

Get active

Another great way of getting outdoors and boosting activity levels is through sport. Whether you’re more of a solo participant or a team player, there’s something for everyone – whatever your ability. Whether you fancy taking up archery, horse riding, sailing, running or tennis, there’s bound to be something which suits you in the great outdoors. Different activities will benefit you in different ways – horse riding, for instance, is good for building core strength while tennis is a great fitnessboosting cardio workout. The Deloitte Parasport website is a fantastic resource for budding sports participants looking for ways to get involved – it was created by the British Paralympic Association, who saw that disabled people needed more information on ways in which to get involved with sport. The site lets you do this in two ways. First, you can enter your disability or impairment and the site will offer up different activities suited to your ability, then you can look for clubs offering this sport in your region. The major benefit of getting involved with a club is that it expands your social horizons – think of all the people you could meet who have a shared interest. Socialising is a real boost for self esteem
and your mental health. Find out more at www.parasport.org.uk.

If you’re into keeping active but you’re more of a daredevil, take advantage of the better weather at an outdoor adventure centre. The Calvert Trust’s centres in Kielder, Exmoor and the Lake District offer fully accessible, adrenaline-pumping activities in the great outdoors. From multi-activity days to respite breaks, everyone can get involved at the Trust centres, with specially trained staff on hand to help. Activities on offer include high ropes courses, climbing and abseiling, canoeing, cycling, orienteering, horse riding, zip wire, assault courses and even paragliding. Not only are activities like this physically challenging, but you’ll learn new skills and test your problem solving skills. Find out more about taking part at www.calvert-trust.org.uk.

Something sweet

If the thought of adventure sports leave you feeling uneasy, there’s an altogether tastier option on offer this spring. Chocolate giants Cadbury are teaming up with the National Trust and National Trust for Scotland for the seventh year running to host familyfriendly Easter egg hunts across the UK. Taking place at over 300 locations UK-wide, young adventurers will get a make-ityourself pith helmet, a trail journal filled with clues and an Eggsplorer passport to be stamped along the way before being awarded with a yummy Cadbury Egghead at the end of the hunt. There will be other competitions and activities for the whole family to enjoy on the day too. As National Trust properties are very old, access will vary from site to site, so get in touch with the event organisers if you have specific needs. Find your nearest Easter egg trail at www.eastereggtrail.com.

With so much to take advantage of in the coming months, you don’t have much of an excuse to hide away indoors. So get outside and spring into action for an activity-packed new season of fun, friends and memories…

Enable, March/April 2014

Image courtesy of iStock

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