Although physical exercise can improve mental health, for many faced with the stay at home rules, getting out for some fresh air, to listen to the birds and to stimulate and relax their minds is equally, if not more importantAndy Wightman
Leaving the house during lockdown for permitted ‘daily exercise’ must include activity to boost mental health, the Scottish Greens have said.
Regulations make it clear that physical health is justification for leaving the home, but they are not clear on mental health reasons.
Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman has written to cabinet secretaries Jeane Freeman and Michael Russell to call for emergency regulations being enforced by police to be amended so that people going for a walk, getting fresh air, bird watching and other things which might not be interpreted as physical exercise are not fined.
Fellow Green Ross Greer raised the issue at the Holyrood’s COVID-19 committee with Michael Russell, who said that “health implies mental health”.
However, the Scottish Greens are calling for greater clarity, when police can move people on even when their behaviour is safe. The call has been backed by third sector experts.
Commenting, Andy Wightman said: “Although physical exercise can improve mental health, for many faced with the stay at home rules, getting out for some fresh air, to listen to the birds and to stimulate and relax their minds is equally, if not more important.
“We have seen the impact of lockdown on mental health in other countries, which is why it’s vital that the Scottish Government is clear that it is perfectly acceptable for ‘daily exercise’ to include the things that make people feel better, provided they are continuing to maintain social distancing guidelines. Just saying it ‘implies’ mental health reasons isn’t clear enough for police.
“It is unfair on police officers to ask them to interpret what an ‘unreasonable excuse’ is. Their time should not be taken up with moving people on when they are harmlessly protecting their mental health. I hope the regulations can be clarified as soon as possible.”
Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), said: “The relationship between outdoor activity and good mental health is well known. At this extraordinary time, as ever, it is still important that people are able to maintain their wellbeing and good positive mental health outcomes. We believe that this needs to be better recognised in the legislation.”