Overall, in terms of physical activity, the survey found that more is done outdoors than indoors, and 61% of activity is undertaken in a natural environment*. The emotional responses to being in nature are overwhelmingly positive, with outdoor activities making people feel healthy, relaxed, in touch with nature, ‘alive’ and happy. The two organisations have published the details to support the #itsgreatoutthere campaign’s new #outdoorsmiles initiative that is being launched today, coinciding with the start of the 2020 European Week of Sport.
During lockdown, the It’s Great Out There Coalition (IGOTCo) and the European Outdoor Group (EOG) undertook an in-depth outdoor activity study in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK**. 7,000 consumers who have exercised in the last 12 months took part in the study (1,000 in each country) providing a strong representation of the adult population in each market. The research asked participants about their attitudes towards a range of outdoor activities, and their appetite for getting active in the natural world.
Of those people who are physically active in the outdoors, 49% participate every week or more often, 13% are active every two to four weeks, and 29% are active a few times a year. Crucially, restrictions this year have led to a greater appreciation of nature and desire to be active in the outdoors, with 70% of citizens looking forward to participating in outdoor activities after lockdown eases, and 67% agreeing that they really missed being able to take part in pursuits such as hiking, climbing, cycling, snow sports and other mountain activities. 86% stated that outdoor activities are essential for people’s wellbeing and 58% agreed that they missed outdoor activities above all else while restrictions were in place. Although there were some local variations, a very similar picture emerged in all countries, demonstrating widespread enhanced enthusiasm for participating in outdoor activities.
Light outdoor activities are the most popular with 82% of survey respondents having taken part in the last 12 months. The survey also confirmed that walking/running (63%) and cycling (44%) are the top two outdoor activities that Europeans have participated in during their lives, following by water sports (32%), urban-based pursuits (21%), snow sports (18%) and mountain activities (16%).
Arne Strate, European Outdoor Group general secretary, comments: “This is all very positive, but as the numbers show that the highest proportion of people are taking part in light outdoor activities, there is a big opportunity to help them try something more strenuous and increase their level of outdoor fitness.”
The European Outdoor Group and It’s Great Out There Coalition have released the latest results from the consumer research to help highlight the importance of the outdoor sector’s role in achieving the objectives of the European Commission’s European Week of Sport and its #BeActive message. The coalition is an official partner of the Commission for the project and has today launched #outdoorsmiles, a pan-European online and social media competition designed to celebrate the joy of being active outdoors, and encourage more citizens to spread the positivity by sharing their photos and experiences. Thanks to the support of It’s Great Out There Coalition members, the public have the opportunity to win prizes of outdoor kit in a promotion that starts today and will run for a month. Full details can be found on the #itsgreatoutthere website at www.itsgreatoutthere.com/outdoorsmiles-photo-competition-2020.
Margo de Lange, policy officer for the It’s Great Out There Coalition, comments: “I think that everyone who works in the outdoor industry recognises the positive emotions that are generated by being out in nature. This provides a hugely powerful message about the mental health benefits of getting active outdoors, and it is really encouraging to learn that so many Europeans get their exercise outside, particularly in the current circumstances. Even those citizens who aren’t often active understand the positive benefits of spending time in the outdoors.
“Our #outdoorsmiles campaign is harnessing all of this to help people everywhere celebrate everything that is good about being active in nature. This is a really important initiative, but it’s also just one piece of our wider #itsgreatoutthere project to inspire more people to get active in the outdoors, and to help them do that safely and responsibly.”
The research study also quantified the less active groups by demographic backgrounds, highlighting issues such as access and other barriers like perceptions of individuals that they are ‘not fit enough’ to exercise outdoors. On the positive side, over half (55%) of European citizens surveyed are open to being encouraged to participate in more outdoor activity. The EOG and IGOTCo will share more details about barriers to participation and opportunities for activation in the near future.