More than 40% of younger people took up outdoor activity since Covid-19 began

Running was the most popular new outdoor activity for those living in urban areas

Younger people were much more likely to take up a new outdoor activity since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic than those aged 70 and over, new research shows.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO)’s our lives outdoors survey, published on Wednesday, examined how the health emergency recast peoples’ relationship with the great outdoors. The survey was conducted online between April 22nd and May 9th, with 9,346 respondents.

It found that more than 40 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 took up new outdoor activities since Covid began, compared with 13 per cent of those aged 70 and over.

Respondents aged 18 to 34 (36 per cent) and 35 to 44 (26 per cent) mostly took up running, while almost 30 per cent of respondents in the age groups above 45 mainly started hill walking.

Students or pupils mainly started running (47 per cent), sea swimming (38 per cent) or hiking (33 per cent), while those in employment mostly took up hill walking (27 per cent), hiking (25 per cent), running (25 per cent) or sea swimming (24 per cent).

CSO graphic on outdoor activity. Source: CSO

Hill walking was the main new outdoor activity mentioned by those who were retired (21 per cent), unemployed (32 per cent), or engaged in home duties (24 per cent), while participants who were unable to work due to long standing health problems mostly started hiking (22 per cent).

The interest in new outdoor activities also varied by region, the CSO found.

Participants were more likely to take up sea swimming in the West (27 per cent) and Border regions (34 per cent), while hill walking was the most popular activity in the midwest (33 per cent) and cycling in the mideast (27 per cent).

The reason behind young people’s desire to spend time outdoors was mostly to get fresh air, enjoy nature or to take a break, the survey found.

Participants living in urban areas visited urban green spaces (79 per cent) most frequently, while those living in rural areas mainly visited fields, farmlands, or the countryside (71 per cent).

Over the past six months, 41 per cent of respondents who had access to a garden spent time outdoors daily for recreational purposes, while those who did not were more likely to spend time outdoors on a weekly basis (40 per cent).

The CSO said while results are calibrated to Irish population totals, the findings cannot be generalised to the entire Irish population, as the people who answered the questionnaire were not randomly chosen from the population.

“As the survey was online it will not represent views of those with no online activity. Outdoor activities are dependent on weather conditions. Some of the results presented in this publication will reflect this seasonal dependency,” the office said.

“Even with these caveats, however, we believe that this report provides a valuable insight into our lives outdoors in Ireland.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times