Here's How to Safely Exercise Outside During the Pandemic, According to an Epidemiologist
There are a lot of unknowns as it pertains to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which is why the Centers For Disease Control and Prevent recommends following safety precautions such as social distancing, washing your hands frequently, and covering your mouth and nose with a mask or a DIY covering when you have to be around others, such as in the grocery store.
To slow and prevent the spread of the virus and to control the amount of new COVID-19 cases, places like movie theaters, concert venues, and gyms and fitness studios remain closed for the foreseeable future. Workout classes are going digital, people are getting creative with their at-home workouts, and others are beginning to spend more time training outdoors. If you're the latter and have been spending more time at your neighborhood park and outdoors to exercise, you still need to follow safety precautions to protect your health and the health of others.
"Don't forget the basics: wear a face covering, maintain your social distance (at least six feet), wash your hands before and after, and don't touch your face," I-Min Lee, MD, MPH, ScD, epidemiologist, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told POPSUGAR. If you're training outdoors with your personal equipment, Dr. Lee advised not to share it with others.
Additionally, she recommends sanitizing your mat, water bottle, and any other equipment or gear you have with you before and after each use. It's also ideal to wipe down your workout area, if applicable, (for example, if you're using a bench or park stations), but as long as you're washing your hands before and after exercising and not touching your face throughout the duration of your workout, Dr. Lee said you probably don't have to wipe your workout area down.
While six feet of space between you and others is the status quo in social settings, if you're doing workouts such a high-intensity interval training or sprint intervals — anything that will cause you to breathe heavily — Dr. Lee said to double the space between you and others to 12 feet to be safe.
If you're training early in the morning or when many people aren't around, you may be wondering if a face covering is still necessary. In Dr. Lee's opinion, "I say yes, even though I know it can be difficult to work out with a face covering on." It may be uncomfortable and take time to adapt to but "The reason is that you may come across someone unexpectedly (e.g., running out from a side street)," Dr. Lee explained. "A compromise could be: have a covering on you, you can pull it down when you are alone, and if you do come across someone unexpectedly, quickly pull it up," she said.
In the event that you do begin to spend more time exercising outdoors, make sure to implement these recommended safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep yourself and others safe. Whether you're doing a HIIT workout, yoga, or running, make sure to stay hydrated (especially in the summer), to properly warm up and cool down before and after your workout, and to have fun.