National Trust welcomes All-Party Commission on Physical Activity

The National Trust wholeheartedly welcomes the establishment today of an All-Party Commission on Physical Activity. We believe it would hugely benefit from examining the evidence for the role of nature and the outdoors in supporting increased levels of physical activity across the population.

In March 2012 we published our Natural Childhood Report – which looked at the state of children’s relationship with nature and the outdoors. This showed that too many children were missing out on many of the crucial physical and mental health benefits of time spent regularly playing outdoors. Our subsequent Reconnecting Children with Nature report also highlighted some of the barriers which stopped children spending more active time outdoors    .

This spurred us into action to do more:

  • The Wild Network – we have worked with partners in recently establishing the Wild Network, a very rapidly growing multi-sector coalition of organisations (from environment, play, youth, health, nursery and education sectors) who want every child to enjoy the benefits of more time spent playing outdoors and closer to nature. We believe that this civil society-based coalition shows great potential for finding ways that work for families and encourage more children and their parents and carers to enjoy the health benefits of more active time outdoors. As part of this work we have supported with partners the recent release of Project Wild Thing, a feature-length documentary which explores children’s relationship with nature and the outdoors – we believe that the Cross-Party group would benefit greatly from watching this film.
  • The Great British Walk – we are currently celebrating our annual Great British walk with support from PruHealth. Research by the University of Bath this year showed that our most downloaded walk – a route around “Bath Skyline” – expended the equivalent effort as playing 90 minutes of football, tennis or badminton.
  • 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 ¾ – our challenging list of outdoors activities, that every child should do before their 12, has been one of our most successful campaigns, showing how focussing on the enjoyment of outdoors for children and families can inspire and motivate them to get more active.
  • Our partnership with Sport England – we are currently working on a large partnership to develop more sporting activities across National Trust land. We are looking at ways to encourage more outdoors activities such as running, cycling and kayaking. As part of this work we are investing in new cycling routes and facilities, encouraging activities such as family Parkruns and linking up with local sports organisations to use the beauty of the places we care for to inspire people to get more active.

We very much look forward to submitting evidence to the Commission. We believe it’s important that they examine the positive role that the outdoors and nature can play in inspiring people to be more active as part of their family life and leisure time. Conversely we believe it’s important that they consider the barriers which prevent people spending more active time outdoors, especially children and their families.

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