- As the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads across the US, cities and states are taking measures ranging from encouraging social distancing to ordering residents to “shelter in place” in order to better control the spread.
- But confusion about what the various terms mean abounds, and many people are wondering if, and under what circumstances, they can still go for a run or walk outside.
- The answer depends on the individual and location, but to stay safe, go alone, try to go to unpopulated areas, and don’t meander or congregate.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
First, workplaces started making working from home optional. Then restaurants and bars reduced capacity, before closing entirely for in-house dining. Schools shut down, nonessential businesses closed, and quickly, cities began issuing orders for people to stay home.
As of March 23, nearly one-third of Americans in states from California to Delaware were under lockdowns that were issued in an attempt to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But unless your city or state has said otherwise, you are still allowed to get fresh air outside your home. And health experts encourage sunshine and exercise for their mental health and immune-boosting benefits.
Still, there are certain safe and responsible practices to adhere to if you want to go outside without raising your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Here’s how.
Exercise is generally OK if you’re alone and don’t congregate or meander
Stay-at-home, lockdown, or shelter-in-place orders generally specify that you should only go outside for essential purchases, like getting groceries or medicine, or going to work if you’re a critical employee. The goal is to keep people physically apart to slow the spread of the virus.
In many places, you’re allowed to go outside for exercise, too.
In New York, for example, outdoor recreation and exercise is allowed if you do it alone.
“It’s running and hiking. It’s not playing basketball with five other people. It’s not playing in the park with 10 other people and sharing a beer,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday, adding that people who don’t comply could be subject to fines.
He even proposed the city consider opening up now-quiet streets to runners, walkers, and bikers so they can maintain a safe distance.
In Ohio, playgrounds are closed but people are still able to walk, run, hike, or bike outside if they maintain a 6-foot distance from non-family members. The same guidelines apply in Louisiana.
In California, there’s now a state-wide ordinance to shelter in place, and some parks, parking lots, and beaches are closed. But people are still running, walking and biking outside, Mark Heim, a San Francisco resident, told Business Insider.
The availability of outdoor recreation areas may vary depending on where you live – check your local city and state park guidelines to be sure they’re still open for use.
Getting exercise and fresh air is good for your mental health and immune system
Health experts encourage outdoor exercise during this stressful, isolating time.
“I don’t need to quote a study to let you know that if you’ve been inside all day, a little time outdoors will improve your mood,” Dr. Jebidiah Ballard, an emergency medicine physician, previously told Business Insider. “Vitamin D also plays a role in immune function, and sunlight is needed for our bodies to convert it to its active form.”
One study, for instance, found that people who went for a daily brisk walk for 12 to 15 weeks reported half the sick days as their couch potato counterparts.
Even the World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus encouraged people all over the world to keep themselves healthy by getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for adults and an hour for children.
If your local or national guidelines allow it, go outside for a walk, a run, or a ride, and keep a safe distance from others,” he said.
If you can’t go outside, you can still get some exercise
There may be occasions when weather or other circumstances make it less than ideal to go for a jog. In that case, it’s still possible to maintain your fitness (yes, even cardio) by working out in your home.
Simple body weight exercises like burpees, push-ups, lunges, squats, and planks can work all the major muscle groups in your body without equipment. Adding an explosive component to the movements (doing a squat jump instead of a squat, for instance) can spike your heart rate even more.
Household items can also be incorporated into your workouts – a chair or couch can be used for triceps dips, and cans of soup or jugs of water can add a little weight to your exercises.
If you’re looking for ideas, gyms and fitness professionals have begun offering online resources and programs for home workouts, many of them for free. With a little resourcefulness, you can plan a full roster of different workouts, including outdoor exercise, throughout your week to keep things interesting.