The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of leisure activity to health and well-being, as well as changed how people experience it, according to a Vancouver Island University (VIU) recreation and tourism professor.
Joanne Schroeder said people often associate leisure activity with buildings — many of which closed or reduced activity because of COVID safety concerns.
“Leisure activities moved outside of those facilities and I believe that it is going to be emphasized even more as we come out of the pandemic,” she said. “There is an evolution of leisure happening where we have room to move around in our cities, communities and neighbourhoods.”
Schroeder, the first female chair of the World Leisure Organization (WLO) board of directors, said she believes the pandemic created further opportunities for introspection on how people spend their free time.
“At the root of it is community. When we come together as a group, we are stronger as individuals,” she said. “We do things like eat together, walk in parks together, play together and socialize together. Those are all an aspect of leisure and when we remove those, we can see a huge impact to our health and well-being.”
Schroeder said it is evident that access to green spaces has a significant impact on our mental health and well-being.
“However, in many countries with huge population densities and high poverty, more needs to be done to elevate the conversation in the context of their country so policymakers see that importance,” said Schroeder. “From what we have learned in this pandemic, we need those supports in place for the next time so we come back stronger.”
She added a shift to a “well-being economy” — a place-based approach to growth that guides policy decisions, will make our world healthier and more sustainable.
“We need to examine how travel impacts our footprint across the globe, re-think local tourism. How can we as individuals support ourselves and our communities?” said Schroeder
Schroeder has more than 25 years of experience in public and non-profit recreation services encompassing a variety of leisure delivery experiences.
Formed in 1952, the WLO is a non-profit, non-governmental body of individuals and organizations from all parts of the world that promotes leisure as integral to social, cultural, economic and sustainable environmental development.