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Published: June, 2020; Vol 17, Num 1

How to Exercise Outdoors Safely During the COVID-19 Era

Stay-at-home orders have begun to be lifted in almost all states. As we wait for life to return to normal, or at least a new normal, you may be wondering if your gym is ever going to resume normal operations, or what physical activities you can pursue while still practicing social distancing.

Physical Activity During COVID-19

What’s allowed? What should be avoided? And what activities can be done, but with caution? Restrictions still vary by location, so check with your local and state regulations and ordinances for details on specific activities. And if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home, self-isolate and call your healthcare provider.

It is even more important for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even a short break from sitting all day to engage in a few minutes of light stretching or walking will help ease muscle strain, relieve mental tension and improve blood circulation.

Exercise Outside Your Home

First, decide if you feel comfortable exercising outside. This may depend on factors like your health status, the health status of members of your household and what your neighborhood is like. If you do decide to exercise outdoors, follow these tips:

  • Stay six feet away. Keeping your distance may mean changing direction, crossing the street or safely stepping aside on the road, sidewalk or trail.
  • Press pause on social outings. Go with someone from your household or go by yourself. Hold off on group runs, organized sports and playground meetups.
  • Step outside your door (but not too far). Limit time spent driving and minimize potential exposure by starting your walk, run or bike ride from your doorstep. If you choose to visit parks or go hiking, stick to ones closest to your home.
  • Continue practicing proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Exercise Inside Your Home

  • Rethink activity. Look at everyday tasks as opportunities to be active, like the countless times you go up and down the stairs. Use chores as a way to be more physically active and target certain muscle groups. For example, you’re building strong arms while scrubbing the bathtub or keeping your core engaged with twisting motions while putting the dishes away.
  • Improvise and be creative. Use common household items to replace what you’re lacking from a gym. Use soup cans or refill empty milk cartons with water for an instant weight set. Or make an obstacle course that involves plenty of running, jumping, twisting and turning, then invite other members of your household to join you in a competition.
  • Use online resources. If you’re not sure how to adapt the workout routine you normally do at the gym, explore options online. Use YouTube and search by workout type – upper body, lower body, yoga, energy boosting, cardio – and how much time you have available. Your cable provider may offer exercise videos on-demand. Many gyms and studios have brought classes online at no cost or a reduced rate; check their website or social media platforms.

Exercise Principles to Maintain

  • Do what works for you. Don’t let peer (or societal) pressure negatively impact your decisions. Make sure you’re keeping safety in mind and following proper hygiene precautions regardless of what type of exercise you choose.
  • Don’t go overboard. Build up your exercise over time to avoid injuring yourself. Vary the pace, time and incline as your body becomes more comfortable.
  • Mix it up with a change of scenery. Avoid boredom by walking in a different part of your neighborhood, going the opposite direction around the block or moving from your living room to your balcony, patio or backyard.
  • Manage your stress and stay grounded. Keeping some kind of regular movement in your schedule is not only helpful to your physical health, but the break from your daily, at-home routine can give you a mental health boost as well.
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Write it out, type it out or draw it out with your child’s scented markers – as long as you document it somewhere. If it’s on paper, post it somewhere you’ll see throughout the day, like the fridge or bathroom mirror. Share your plan and goals with members of your household. Ask them to help hold you accountable and encourage them to be physically active too.

The Fund’s Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers: Becoming Physically Active pamphlet and the Build a Better Body pamphlet both provide additional information. Order online by going to www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications.

[Emily Smith is the LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Manager.]