A group of young people are out walking locally in Devon near their school with a teacher, as part of their school activity and to be naturally healthy.

Naturally Healthy May Offers a Natural Respite from Studying

As exam season approaches, it’s normal for young people and anyone who supports them to experience moments of stress and anxiety. There’s widespread recognition that being active in nature can reduce these feelings. Being in a natural environment allows the body to relax, rejuvenating the mind and enhancing concentration and focus when it’s most crucial.

This May, the Naturally Healthy campaign, led by Active Devon and Devon County Council on behalf of the Devon Local Nature Partnership, has engaged with groups of young people across Devon, finding out whether they think taking part in outdoor activity impacts their mood, how they feel it can support them in managing worries and whether it offers an enjoyable and healthy way to unwind before, during and after studying.

Dr Rebecca Lovell from Exeter University said:

“In Devon and across the nation, young people are gearing up to take exams this May, grappling with uncertainty about their outcomes and their paths ahead. Recognising the important advantages of outdoor activities, now presents an opportune moment to advocate for young individuals to step outdoors, alleviating some of the stress they’re experiencing.”

Surveys consistently show that spending time in nature leads to increased relaxation, happiness, and reduced stress levels. After a day of learning, intense revision or exam-focused concentration, taking time outdoors can provide much-needed relief and rejuvenation.

Research from Cornell University in America suggests that spending 10-50 minutes in nature can significantly improve mood, focus, and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate, so we asked a number of schools, how being outside in nature made their pupils feel at this critical time of year.

Deputy head, Andrew Maker from Mill Water School, Bicton, East Budleigh explains the importance of outdoor space for pupils:

“The benefits of being outside are huge for Mill Water pupils. It helps them regulate themselves and provides a space to explore. Often, they have greater motivation accessing activities in nature (than in the classroom) and this helps with extending their learning.

“At Mill Water, we offer a variety of activities ranging from those that are fully immersed in nature – such as gardening, apple picking and bird watching to sports related activities – such as cycling/triking, ball games and outdoor play spaces. Pupils like the freedom of movement and choice they have outdoors and will gravitate towards their preferred activity.

“We are also fortunate that we have an orchard on the school premises. This provides pupils with the opportunity to access a designated nature space regularly during the week. For pupils seeking a wider exploration of the outdoors we have the Bicton Grounds adjoining the school; this allows pupils to see other aspects of nature such as agriculture, wildlife and trees/plants that exist only on these grounds.”

Pupils from the school were asked to share why they like to be in nature and commented, ‘I like listening to birds’, ‘it’s peace and quiet’, ‘I like walking outdoors and seeing nature’, ‘it’s nice having fresh air’, ‘we can do lots of composting outside’ and ‘I like running around in nature’.

Nicola and Lottie who are in Year 10 and attend Pilton Community College, Barnstaple explained why being more active outdoors works for them:

“We are really passionate about walking as it allows us to have fun experiences with others. It’s nice to walk and chat and have a break from our studies. It’s also good to be outdoors and get fresh air.”

To encourage everyone to be more active in nature, whether you are learning, studying for an exam or just in need of a break from your daily working routine, a number of resources have been created. These include details of activities and events taking place across Devon and nature ‘spotter’ sheets. You can access the resources for free to help you enjoy your time outdoors this #NaturallyHealthyMay.