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Trail use has increased during the coronavirus pandemic

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WATCH: As Canada enters the second wave of the pandemic, Nova Scotians are being reminded to take care of their mental and physical health. As Alicia Draus reports, with gyms once again closed many are heading outdoors to do just that. – Nov 28, 2020

Kathleen Doane and Susan Vaslet have been making it a priority to get outside and go for walks as often as possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For our sanity, for exercise, it’s a good chance to explore, and there’s less other things to do,” said Doane.

Read more: Canadians struggling with mental health during pandemic

“Some of us are not working, so we see nobody so it’s really important to get out and walk every day,” said Vaslet.

The two women say they’ve always made a habit of going for walks, but their trail use has definitely increased over the course of the pandemic.

“We did Duncan’s Cove, Polly’s Cove, and I did High Head in Prospect and Cape Split, and we just went to look at the new Shaw Wilderness Trail,” said Doane.

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“So we just thought we’d go to places that we didn’t have the time to go to because groceries got in the way, or work, but now there’s just no reason to go to the mall, or shopping, and works different so we’re trying to get out a lot more.”

But the two women’s story isn’t unique.

Since the pandemic, Canadians across the country say they’re taking advantage of trails now more than ever.

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A recent survey released by Trans Canada Trail found that nearly half of respondents reported they had increased their trail usage since the pandemic began and 91 per cent said that trails were vital to community recreation.

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“I think one of the things that COVID has done to us all is it’s caused immediate interruptions in the way in which we connect,” said Eleanor McMahon, president and CEO of Trans Canada Trail.

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“Canadians are seeking ways to interact safely, in ways that are going to enhance their physical health and mental health.”

And trails have become a popular way to do that.

Teagan Koszegi lives alone and has been working from home because of COVID. He says access to trails has been so important to help with his mental health.

“After working inside all day, I find I have to go outside at least for the fresh air and interaction,” he said.

Read more: Nova Scotia to improve, develop new trails across the province

McMahan says she’s not surprised that the survey results show what they’ve been seeing and hearing anecdotally — that more people have been taking to the trails during the pandemic, but she says some of the survey’s findings seem to be particularly important.

“The reasons why Canadians are accessing trails,” said McMahan.

“Ninety-five per cent of Canadians said that trails are a way for them to enhance their mental health and well being, and 100 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 said that that was the case for them.”

During the first wave of the pandemic in Nova Scotia, parks and trails were closed, as residents were told to stay home, but many raised concerns that being cooped up inside was taking a toll on their mental health.

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Health officials have since acknowledged the importance of having access to the outdoors.

On Friday, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said it was unlikely Nova Scotians would see similar restrictions during the second wave.

“We know much more about how the virus is transmitted so we’re focusing our restrictions on things that are high risk for transmission,” said Strang.

“Outdoor environments aren’t a risk so unless it was absolutely necessary, those are things that are important to keep open, they don’t create a risk and as the premier said they’re good for people’s health.”