Last month the House of Lords Sport and Recreation Select Committee released a report, A National Plan for Sport, Health and Wellbeing, which expressed concerns about high levels of inactivity around grassroots level sport, particularly among minority communities and people from less affluent backgrounds.
The report found that the trend appears to have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Coupled with this is the devastating impact life during COVID-19 has had on the mental health of the nation. Around one in six (17%) adults experienced some form of depression last summer, compared to 10% before the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Having welcomed people of all ages and backgrounds to our centre for more than 65 years, we know only too well the benefits outdoor activities can have on both mental and physical health. Benefits that are being more widely recognised and accepted – and even prescribed by medical professionals.
While the lockdowns were particularly damaging to organisations operating in the outdoor learning and education sector, some of which will never recover, the closures meant many young people were denied access to outdoor education and the opportunity to learn new skills in a safe environment. Skills, such as team building, confidence, resilience and independence, which would better prepare them to cope during the pandemic.
Pointing to a lack of diversity among those participating in outdoor activities, the report highlights that we must all, as a sector, come together to create an inclusive environment for everyone, irrespective of age, background and ability.
As the home of true adventure for everyone, we welcome the findings of the report and its recommendations for a national plan, which it suggests should focus on: physical literacy, providing a welcoming and inclusive environment, application of the science of behaviour change and motivation, a proactive approach to tackling health inequalities, and making a contribution to individual development and community cohesion through enhanced support for sport for development organisations and projects.
As the National Outdoor Centre, it is our mission to promote an active lifestyle by creating a welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy outdoor activities safely and responsibly, as well as training the next generation of outdoor professionals to the highest standards.
Over the last few years, we have been working with diverse organisations such as Experience Community, Black Girls Hike and the Muslim Scout Fellowship to learn more about how we can be more accommodating and inclusive.
There’s also a perception that the outdoors is not for amateurs, which needs addressing. Our introductory skills courses are our most popular, and we are focused on doing more to broaden the reach of these to reflect the makeup of society.
While many of the findings of the Lords Select Committee report make disappointing reading, there is a big opportunity to do more as we emerge from the pandemic. We have been working hard to address these issues for some time with a growing number of great partners. We will continue learning, adapting, investing and forging relationships to ensure everyone is able to access the benefits of outdoor activities, learning and adventure.