Hospitals have reported a marked reduction in patients visiting hospital with acute heart attacks or strokes during the coronoavirus pandemic.

Speculation ranged from people being too frightened of the virus to go to hospital with chest pains or perhaps a drop in air pollution with fewer cars on our roads or planes overhead.

It's too early to give a detailed response, but some researchers analysing data from personal fitness monitors have found that heart rates are generally lower since the lockdown started than they were before. They've also noted that people are active for longer during the day, despite not travelling as far as they did before.

Parks and outdoor spaces have become busier than they were before the coronavirus outbreak. Traditional park activities have been shelved and the only activities you should see are people walking, running, stretching, cycling, skate boarding or perhaps a family playing ball games or frisbee.

Government guidance

Whatever you do to work out, make sure your exercise takes longer than the journey to get to your location. Don't linger, maintain a 2m distance from others and wash your hands thoroughly when you return home.

Common sense

Respect other park users. Please take your litter home and do report any damage you come across so it can be sorted. Spitting can spread infections and is antisocial, so if you must spit when cycling or exercising, use a tissue and dispose of it hygenically in a bin - preferably when you get home.

Reality

Parks staff are still working to maintain our outdoor spaces for us all to enjoy, and some park friends groups are organising rotas so volunteers can help out while sticking to the rules of physical distancing.

The increase in visitors has thrown-up some issues. A recent (virtual) meeting of the London Friends of Greenspaces Network [LFGN] reviewed the most recent feedback:

The biggest complaint from park users was that physical distancing is often difficult to manitain on narrow paths, or that other users aren't as careful about the 2m distancing as they would like.

  • There is no easy solution for this when it comes to narrow paths or bridges. If it's possible to move off the path, feel free to walk on the grass. If this is not possible, you can either find an alternative route or wait for the pathway to become clear.
  • Signs urge all park users to respect each other. There have been a lot of complaints from walkers who feel uncomfortable when others come closer, even fleetingly. They specifically singled out cyclists and joggers. Resolving this comes down to people being more aware of the impact of their behaviour on others, and remembering to maintain a minimum 2m distance at all times. Cyclists and joggers need not be restricted to parks so could consider alternatives where there may be fewer people.

Another common concern was on drug use or drug dealing in parks. The Metropolitan Police say crime has generally decreased since the lockdown with a few exceptions such as domestic abuse and burglary of empty premises. Their monitoring of reported crime has not captured an increase in offences in parks, but say patrols of public spaces have been stepped-up to ensure visitors feel safe and protected.

  • Park users can look out for each other and report issues they come across. In an emergency dial 999. Non-emergecies can be reported to the Police by calling 101 or the anonymous Crimestoppers line 0800 555 111.

If you'd like to contact or volunteer with your local park friends group, find your park listing on our website and open the page, it will include their contact details. If you want to start a park friends group where none exist, click here.

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