While getting fresh air and exercise while burning off excess energy is a great idea for everyone, it's particularly important for children, regardless of the season or circumstance. However, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when school closures have made our homes the live-work-school-play under-one-roof centres for an extended period of time, getting out and about is crucial.
While the inclination may be to hibernate indoors when the thermometer drops in the winter, there awaits a treasure trove of fun outdoors, even during the pandemic. It’s a matter of bundling up and finding your pleasure. Truly, there is nothing quite as rewarding as coming back indoors at the end of an outing with the family, cheeks rosy and slightly sleepy from all that fresh air.
The Benefits Of The Great Outdoors
This article, "Winter Could Put A Chill On Canada's Top COVID-19 Coping Strategy" refers to a poll done by Mental Health Research Canada, where 39% of respondents said that spending time outdoors was beneficial to their mental health. This is likely in part because being outdoors lets us be around others, but at a distance that is safe. You get the benefit of exercise, fresh air, daylight, and socialization - all essential to good mental health.
Although it comes as no surprise really (we Canadians are a hale and hearty lot, not to be deterred by snow and chilly temps) there has been an uptick in sales for outdoor pleasures to make the most of a pandemic winter, from snowshoes to skis to hot tubs!
COVID-19 - Indoors Versus Outdoors
The predominant message from Public Health officials has been that heading outdoors is safe - relatively speaking - compared to being indoors. This is due to a number of factors, like having more space and opportunities to socially distance, as well as expansive air circulation, making it harder for infectious droplets to spread.
There is growing evidence that COVID-19 may travel through ventilation systems indoors, which can obviously increase potential transmission. This past post explores this: Dear Urbaneer: Can I Catch COVID-19 From HVAC Systems? Incidentally, Urbaneer offers an entire series on how COVID-19 impacts how we live and how we use our built environments, in light of the pandemic. Check out COVID-19 & Toronto Real Estate.
Now, there is growing evidence that heading outdoors may not be a safety net all on its own, in terms of protecting oneself from COVID. Building on what scientists have revealed about the aerosolization of particles, which is why they are able to travel greater distances indoors, when moving through HVAC systems, for instance - the temperature of the air outdoors in the winter acts similarly.
In short, when the air is hot and humid (as it is outdoors in the summer), virulent drupelets fall more quickly to the ground. In colder, drier air, those droplets are able to be a little more nimble and more transmissible. That said, fresh air (warm or cold) is still better at deterring transmission compared to inside in poorly ventilated areas.
Here are two articles from CTV and CBC entitled, "Expert Warns That Risk Of Transmitting COVID-19 Outdoors During The Winter Is Higher" and "Here's What We Know About Outdoor Transmission Of COVID-19 During Winter".
Stay Safe And Have Fun
That said, it is still wise to head outdoors, as it helps our mental, emotional and physical well-being. It’s just a question of planning your time outdoors safely - in addition to bundling up to beat the cold!
As a rule, activities that keep you two meters apart from people who are not part of your household are recommended, in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This CBC article, "How Much COVID-19 Risk Is There In These Common Winter Activities?" provides a good overview of outdoor winter activities that are considered low-risk, including tobogganing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating, and skiing (both downhill and cross country). Another good one is snowshoeing. This article is a good read as well: "Looking For Winter Activities During COVID-19? Here’s What You Should Know".
What is your favourite outdoor pastime in the winter? Are you a downhill skier? While this is a great, family-friendly outdoor activity, with several good choices within a reasonable drive from Toronto, sadly, ski hills in Ontario are currently closed, as of the writing of this piece. Check out this article "Ontario Ski, Snowboard Hills Struggle Amid COVID-19 Lockdown".
The good news is that there are a number of family-friendly outdoor activities closer to home, including at my favourite: Rennie Park!
Sliding Through Swansea
As a resident of Swansea, Rennie Park is my family's treasured plot of green that is “normally” a year-round hub of activity with young cyclists, splashers, and tennis enthusiasts in the warmer months, while the colder weather invites us to add hockey, skating, and throws tobogganing into the mix.
In fact, I consider it the heart of idyllic Swansea - even now as we live through a pandemic.
Have you seen this Urbaneer post from last fall, celebrating all that Rennie Park in the warmer months: Exploring Rennie Park In Swansea? And this post from December explores the history and charm of Swansea: Stepping Back In Time In The Village of Swansea, Toronto.
Now, I have to say that, in the wake of the pandemic and our second lockdown, the winter activities in Rennie Park have altered somewhat. The beloved outdoor Swansea Hockey season was canceled and shinney hockey is no more. Skating remains an option but in limited time slots. Not surprisingly, these coveted spots are in high demand and often require stealth-like online maneuvering to secure a skate time through the city website.
These long indoor days in front of screens for school and work are certainly taking their toll on all family members. Most of us are desperate to be outdoors, craving social activity, or any activity for that matter. So, when the snow begins to fall in Swansea, don’t bother calling – we are ALL at Rennie Park or ‘the school’ sliding.
At the onset, this flurry of winter activity looks and sounds similar to past years of GT-snow racers and crazy carpets, but a closer inspection notes differences: there’s more social distancing between families, more face coverings and, maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be police or ambulances always present. There also seems desperation in the snippets of overheard conversations – “…in the house for so long” or “…we just needed to get them OUT”.
All the loss, the damages, and the longer-term repercussions on our physical and mental health from the impact of COVID-19 may not ever be fully realized, but those thoughts are for another day.
For today the sun is shining and the Swansea hills are alive with the sounds of sliding!
This beloved park offers us the opportunity to be present with neighbours, even from afar. And my family is grateful for it.
It's a great example of how the amenities woven into the urban fabric of Toronto's city neighbourhoods contributes to one's quality of life as much as the merits of one's home.
Now more than ever, it is essential to plan a well-researched, data-driven, tactical strategy if you are in the market for a new home. Especially in changing times, when the pandemic has prompted many to shift their focus and objectives. Have yours changed? Please know The Urbaneer team is here to help!
May we be of assistance to you, or someone you love?
Thanks for reading!
~ Cynthia Rose
The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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