Wednesday, April 1, marks the annual National Walking Day, encouraging people of all ages to get outside and go for a walk. In light of the current pandemic, we're here to help guide your best practices on walking and running while practicing social distancing.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration during the coronavirus pandemic, like if and how you might be putting yourself and others at risk doing everyday tasks. With emergency warnings in place and non-essential businesses closing due to federal and local regulations, many questions remain unanswered. For example: can you still order packages safely? Or, how much food should you be storing in your home to prepare for the inevitable New Normal we are all facing. Now, as gyms and workout classes close and many are forced to get their physical activity via in-home livestreams or outdoor runs, the question is, how safe is it to run outside?
Current coronavirus pandemic mandates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and recommendations from the World Health Organization say that everyone should practice social distancing, stay six feet away from others, and stay at home unless it’s necessary to go out. Some areas like Los Angeles and the Bay Area, have effectively instituted shelter-in-place orders to slow the exponential spread of the virus, meaning no one is really supposed to leave their house (except for emergencies, which include going to get tested for COVID-19 or going to the hospital if sick).
Still, in places like New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has put what he calls the PAUSE (Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone) into place, it’s technically okay to go out for limited exercise, like walks, bike rides, jogs, or runs — at least for now. For many, that means running or other activities that involve being outdoors will be a brief, sanity-saving respite from staying inside. However, the question is, while we could all technically continue to go outside while social distancing and staying at least six feet away from people, is it still actually safe to go on those runs?
There may soon be a lot of people running outside, jogging, taking walks or biking, to get some much-needed outside time for your mental health. But it’s important to know the exact precautions to take to make sure you’re getting your time outdoors for a breath of fresh air as safely and mindfully as possible. Health care professionals and experts at the CDC have recommended that if you’re going to leave your home or wherever you’re isolating at the moment, it’s important to maintain social distance.
That means that even if you go outside to exercise or take a walk, you should stay six feet away from anyone. It’s important to stay away, because the disease is also spread through droplets and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or breathing near someone who has it and vice versa. “Solo jogs are generally fine while engaging in social distancing,” said Dr. Maimuna Majumder, a faculty member at the Computational Health Informatics Program at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital in a GQ interview. However, also according to Dr. Majumder, group jogs, runs, or walks should be avoided, unless you go out with people who are all healthy and not showing any respiratory symptoms.
San Francisco's County Health Department order, which set a precedent for other shelter-in-place orders in largely-affected cities, also states that you should especially avoid walking or running with anyone outside of your household if you can avoid it, especially if they have not taken proper isolation measures. According to Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunology at the Yale University School of Medicine, it's also important to treat public spaces outdoors as "contaminated." Her advice is to avoid touching benches, pull-up bars, and walk buttons, “and wash your hands with soap after you return,” she told the New York Times.
So, while practicing social distancing, it's important to stay alert about who is near you and what you touch when you go out for your walks or runs. Taking these precautions might feel unusual at first, but this is our new reality, and there are many habits we’ll all have to adjust to do our part to reduce harm caused to as many people as possible.