Today’s columnist, Claire Hanley-Opik: Get outdoors to feel good

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Bloated and skint after the Christmas binge? Make a resolution to spend a bit more time outside.

Getting closer to nature is good for your physical and mental wellbeing, and best of all it’s free with no specialist equipment required.

You could sign up to the gym again, promise to give up chocolate, and swear not to eat after 6pm.

But why struggle to give up the things you love, or spend a fortune in a sweaty gym when you could just go outside?

That’s it. Just put on your shoes and open the door.

Here in Sheffield we’re very lucky to have the Peak District on our doorstep and some fantastic green urban spaces.

Just being close to nature provides all sorts of health benefits beyond the obvious ones you’d get from a brisk stroll in the fresh air.

Getting outdoors gives your wellbeing – mental as well as physical – a boost. While all exercise releases ‘feelgood’ chemicals called endorphins into your brain, doing that same activity in a green space increases the benefits, and helps with depression, stress and anxiety, even in people with severe mental health problems.

A walk around a local nature reserve or park can be a good way to clear your head and enjoy a bit of ‘me-time’.

Being outdoors has benefits for children too.

Research shows engaging with nature helps kids concentrate as well as improving motor skills, physical and mental development.

If you’re not the solitary type, the Trust’s Wild at Heart programme is a great way to make friends.

It’s designed especially for the over 50s to get out and enjoy good company while trying new skills.

You’re never too old to learn as Dot, who lives in a supported housing scheme, says: “We thought we knew a lot about wildlife, but we’ve learned so much from these sessions.”

If you’re not so keen on walking but like to stay active, why not join a community work day on one of our nature reserves.

It’s a good way to get out and about and you’ll be helping to protect the countryside at the same time.

The friendly crews are always happy to see new faces willing to help.

Visit Wild Sheffield or phone 0114 2634335 to find out more.