Here’s How to Safely Exercise Outside During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Here's How to Safely Exercise Outside During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A few days into being stuck inside, you start to crave the fresh air and wide open spaces right outside your door. It might even feel like you’ll never be allowed to go outside again—such a shame during this time of year. But social distancing doesn’t have to mean being cooped up inside all day.

Whether you’re aching to run for miles or simply want to walk around the neighborhood, getting outside is still likely to do you more good than harm, even during the COVID-19 outbreak. By following these guidelines, including tips from the CDC, you’ll stave off both cabin fever and coronavirus.

Go ahead and venture outside.

Yes, it’s still perfectly safe to step outside and get moving in most places, provided that you’re healthy and aren’t part of a high-risk population. In fact, the CDC recommends physical activity as part of its guidance on staying well. “Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy,” they write, including advice to “exercise regularly.”

Physical activity is also proven to boost the immune system. One 2018 meta-analysis found that moderate exercise can “enhance immune defense activity and metabolic health,” making you healthier overall.

Even shelter-in-place orders, like the one currently in effect in San Francisco, allow for outdoor exercise, while activities like haircuts, non-essential shopping, and even dinner parties are prohibited. It’s simply that important to get outside. Complete lockdowns, like the one in Italy, are a different story—but until you face one at home, you should be allowed to exercise and get fresh air outside.

Keep six feet away from others.

Going outside isn’t a free-for-all, though—the CDC warns that you should maintain at least six feet of distance between you and others. “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person,” the CDC reports. The best way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading is to “put distance between yourself and other people.”

So if you go outside, keeping your distance is a great first line of defense. Choose areas that you know won’t be too heavily populated, including parks, trails, and even empty neighborhood streets. Seeing other people isn’t a bad thing; just maintain at least a six-foot radius and keep walking or running like normal.

Skip the mask.

Healthy exercise requires plenty of access to oxygen, and wearing a surgical mask or N95 respirator makes it much harder to breathe. Even normal activities can make this equipment “hot and uncomfortable,” according to the CDC. Now imagine trying to breathe through one while hiking up a hill—seems horrible, right?

Evidence shows that masks are not a perfect line of defense, anyway—and they might even make you more susceptible to infection thanks to a false sense of security. For now, the CDC also “does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings.” Leave the mask behind and enjoy the fresh air instead.

Use best disease prevention practices.

The best way to prevent coronavirus after venturing outside is still to obey tried-and-true public health measures. According to the latest guidance from the White House, everyone should follow these rules: “Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.”

Although you’ve probably heard that advice plenty of times, it still bears repeating, especially after leaving the home. With the right precautions, exercising outside is one of the best ways to feel better during a stressful time. We could all use a little relief right about now.

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