Fellrunner Victoria Wilkinson in action during the Three Peaks Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Fellrunner Victoria Wilkinson in action during the Three Peaks Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The results of a major survey released to mark International Women’s Day demonstrate the benefits of outdoor activities on women’s mental wellbeing.

More than 2,000 women responded to the project, with almost 95 per cent agreeing strongly that being active in the outdoors was good for their mental health.

And more than nine out of 10 strongly agreed it helped their physical wellbeing. Almost all the respondents said their mental and physical health benefited from outdoor adventures.

The survey was conducted by Hetty Key of Women in Adventure, and Dr Ruth Farrar, director of Shextreme.

The survey asked women about how they spend their time outdoors and the effect this has on their happiness, worthwhileness, life satisfaction and anxiety.

It also examined the impact adventure sports has had on other areas of their lives, looking at which sports have the most significant effect on wellbeing.

Hetty Key, lead researcher and founder of Women in Adventure, said: “Instinctively I think we know that spending time outdoors is good for us.

“Even a short walk in your nearest park or green space can make a difference; you rarely regret going out. When I launched the survey in 2017, I felt there was a lack of accessible information showing how and to what extent the outdoors impacts our lives.”

Along with Dr Farrar, who is also a senior lecturer in creative media and enterprise at Bath Spa University, she launched the survey at Shextreme Film Festival in October 2017. The pair joined forces with the Outdoor Industries Association, Kendal Mountain Festival, Outdoor Women’s Alliance and a number of other industry partners to distribute the survey.

Ms Key said: “Now the results are published clearly showing the benefit the outdoors has on our mental wellbeing, I want to use them to drive positive change.

“By working with key partners in the outdoor industry and beyond, I hope activity providers and those who are invested in promoting the outdoors will utilise this information to help widen participation, improve accessibility and increase diversity.”

Mental Wellbeing Survey Results from Women in Adventure on Vimeo.

The survey received responses from 44 countries with the largest response coming from the United Kingdom, making up 72.6 per cent of submissions. The second largest response came from the United States, followed by Australia and New Zealand.

The group aged between 26 and 35 was the largest represented in the survey closely followed by those aged 36 to 45. Ms Key said under-18s and those over 66 were not as well represented in this survey with only 10 and 29 respondents respectively.

The survey suggests mental wellbeing improves with increased participation.

Surfers had the lowest levels of anxiety followed by kayakers though no group scored the same or lower than the Office of National Statistics UK female average. All sports except for running and climbing sat above the survey average. Climbers had the highest levels of anxiety in the top 10 sports.

Skiers were the happiest by a considerable margin, followed by the kayakers, the only two sports that sat above the ONS UK female average. Beneath this were swimmers and surfers respectively. Only mountaineers, canoeists and climbers sat below the survey average with climbers scoring lowest.

When women in adventure were asked to describe their state of mind outdoors in three words, the most commonly occurring word was ‘happy’, followed by ‘free’ then ‘focused’.

Overall, 91 per cent of the words had a positive meaning. As well as individual words, participants also used three-word phrases, such as ‘in the moment’ or ‘focused on nature’. They also commented that state of mind varied depending on activity, circumstance and type, such as teaching a sport compared to competing.

The survey results can be seen on the Women in Adventure website.

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