Posted 08th June 2021
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, insists the activity is ‘just what the doctor ordered’ and a great way to kick-start the post-Covid health recovery.
He went litter-picking in Oxfordshire for the Great British Spring Clean, which runs until Sunday and is organised by Keep Britain Tidy.
‘Obviously there are lots of reasons to support the Great British Spring Clean,’ he said.
‘One is that getting outside doing something of benefit such as litter-picking is good for us as well as the environment.
‘There’s good evidence that being outside in green and blue spaces, such as in the countryside or by the sea or a lake and rivers has really strong benefits for health, both physical and mental.’
More than 160,000 volunteers have pledged to clean 1,018,685 miles of the UK.
Professor Newton believes the combination of being outdoors and picking up litter for the Keep Britain Tidy campaign can have strong health benefits.
He said: ‘Being outside in green spaces particularly if there’s a reason to be there has surprisingly strong health effects, particularly when doing something for the greater good.
‘It helps people to feel they are part of a larger community, and they have a role to play. It is a bit of a cliché, but people do get out of things what they put in, and the more you put in the more you get out.
‘The Great British Spring Clean is a superb example of that. It brings together physical activity, being outside in green spaces, making contact with nature, and noticing what’s going on around you, and doing something of benefit to the greater good.’
Professor Newton added: ‘I think litter picking is just what the doctor ordered but people need to be careful and follow guidance to be safe.
‘You can’t think of a better way of kick-starting your own post-Covid health recovery.’
He said the litter-picking experience was ‘very rewarding’, adding: ‘I was astonished at how much litter I found at the roadside so close to where I live,’ he said.
‘The verges looked fairly clear when driving past but the more I looked the more I found.
‘I’m hooked I’ll be out again soon and hope to join up with other volunteers locally.’
Around 80 per cent of volunteers have said the Great British Spring Clean has helped improve their mood and 43 per cent said it has made them feel less isolated.
Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: ‘Clearing away the litter that blights our streets, parks and beaches has a massive benefit for our environment but it is good for us too.
‘Which makes the campaign a win-win - improving our health and wellbeing at the same time removing thousands of tonnes of litter pollution and creating a cleaner country for everyone to enjoy.’
For more info go to gbspringclean.org