During the COVID-19 pandemic, while you should avoid going outside unnecessarily, most states allow you to go outside for essential trips and to exercise. Staying active is not only important for your physical health but also your mental health, and it is a great way to get a breather. However, outdoor activity should be generally close to your home, like walking your pet or going for a walk, run or bike ride. Additionally, you need to make sure you are following proper social distancing rules and good etiquette while outdoors. Below are a few tips to follow when you go outside for fresh air or for a little exercise.
Follow your city guidelines
First things first, brush up on your city or state’s current stay-at-home orders. These are frequently changing, and what might be acceptable in one city or state, may not be acceptable in yours. For example, in some states, parks are completely closed. You want to make sure you are following the latest guidelines not only because you don’t want to get in trouble, but because these rules are in place for a reason: to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Practice good hygiene
If you go outside, you want to make sure you are practicing good hygiene to avoid getting sick. Here are a few hygiene tips you should follow:
- Before you leave your house, wash your hands following the CDC’s guidelines.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. This is best practice always, but especially after you have been outdoors.
- Avoid touching public surfaces, such as benches, exercise stations, bathrooms, etc. If you must touch something while you are outdoors, bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you to use.
- Don’t drink from public water fountains. Public water fountains tend to be germ magnets, and you don’t want to put your face anywhere near where someone else’s nose and mouth have been recently.
- As soon as you get home, wash your hands.
Stay close to home
When exercising, avoid going to places that require you to get in a car. This may mean stopping to go to the bathroom or a gas station, which puts you in contact with others. Not only could you pick up their germs, but you could be spreading your germs if you are asymptomatic.
Additionally, avoid larger parks or trails that may be crowded. You want to interact with as few people as possible and not worry about getting too close. Try exploring the quiet streets in your neighborhood. You might still come across people, but you can generally move to one side of the street or sidewalk.
Don’t exercise in big groups
Just because your state may allow you to go outside, does not mean you should ignore social distancing. This is not the time to meet up with your friends for a walk or in the park for a large group gathering. That defeats the purpose of social distancing. If you exercise outside, stick to solo trips or with people that you live with and have stayed in isolation with. If you are not regularly interacting with a person, this is not the time to exercise together. Additionally, if you are going outside as a family, keep in mind that you need to maintain at least 6 feet between you and other people, which can be hard if you are a larger family of five or six. Try splitting up so your group number isn’t so large and social distancing is easier.
Keep a safe distance
When social distancing we keep hearing maintain at least 6 feet. However, when running or biking, you may want to consider a greater distance. When someone is running or biking and coughs or sneezes, those particles can stay in their air, and if you are running too close behind, you could walk through those particles. Try keeping a larger gab between you and others, and try to run, walk or bike in a different “lane” than others.
Practice good etiquette
Practicing good etiquette while exercising outdoors is very important. This is a scary, uncertain time for many people, and you need to make sure you are following best practices to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable. Here are a few outdoor etiquette tips:
- DO NOT go outside if you feel like you are sick or have been in contact with someone who has been sick.
- Stick to one side of the street, sidewalk or trail. You should not be taking up the whole space or walking in the middle, which may make it hard for others to pass.
- If you are walking, running or biking with your household members, try to stay in a line to avoid taking up too much space.
- If you are walking a dog, tighten the leash when passing others.
- Avoid stopping short or in the middle of the road, sidewalk or trail. If you think you need to stop, pull off to the side and move out of the way of traffic.
- Do not spit while you are outside exercising. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets and these droplets can be transmitted to near by people.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Let others know where you are going if you are on a smaller trail. For example, if you are on a bike and you are passing a walker, simple say “on your left/right.”
- Limit phone use. Don’t exercise and look at your phone at the same time. It is distracting. Instead take in the beautiful sights. If you are listening to music, keep one ear open so you can hear when others are trying to pass.
Continue to stay up to date with your city’s rules and regulations on outdoor activities, and make sure you are following best practices while exercising outside.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.