If You Run Outside, Take These Doctors' Key Precautions to Protect Against the Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak is interfering with many a fitness routine, including ours, and many of us wonder if on-site social distance and shelter protocols also apply to running and walking outdoors. Good news: Based on current guidelines, runners and walkers should be clear, doctors say.

“We recommend it,” says Aruna Subramanian, MD, an infectious disease doctor and clinical medical professor at Stanford University, to exercise outdoors. “It’s actually very safe to be outside in situations like this.” That’s because the virus spreads best in closed spaces; you are less exposed to the outside, where the air flows freely. Exercise has also been demonstrated boost your immune system and your mental health, an added bonus if you are worried about everything that happens in the news.

The recommendation comes with a few asterisks. First of all, if you feel sick you should do that stay at home and self-quarantined as directed by the CDC. And if you’re healthy and out and about, you still need to follow the best prevention practices for the new coronavirus in your community. In most places, that means staying at least six feet away from other runners, walkers or cyclists, according to Steven Mayer, MD, a sports medicine physician at the Northwestern Medicine Running Medicine Clinic. “If you have to pass someone on the path, I advise you to do it quickly and stay at least six feet in front of them,” he said. “If someone passes you on the path, I would also recommend that you let them pass and then stay at least six feet behind them.”

Many state and national parks are open for runners and hikers, but you should check your county’s website again to make sure your favorite route is still possible. (Note that public bathrooms and other facilities are likely to be closed.) It’s also a good idea not to touch objects (such as railings, fences, and water fountains) and your face; you can use a sweatband or hat to keep sweat from flowing into your eyes. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you get home.

It’s also OK to run with a friend, as long as you stay three feet apart. “It does offer comfort and camaraderie, and is emotionally useful for being around and on the same path with friends,” Mayer said. Avoid running in large groups. And if you miss your usual running buddies, check out apps like Zwift and Strava to connect and compete.

Keep moving on days off with workouts at home. (Reminder: As much as you love running, you shouldn’t be doing it every day.) Try this CrossFit workout plan at home for strength and fitness, or one of these free workouts from brands like Peloton, Orangetheory, and Barry’s Bootcamp.

“This is a very stressful time for most people,” said Dr. Mayer. “I would encourage people to work as hard as possible to avoid negative coping mechanisms and keep fit and exercising. I believe that exercise is emotionally and physically beneficial, especially during periods of high stress and insecurity.”

POPSUGAR strives to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information about the new coronavirus, but details and recommendations regarding this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, check out sources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.

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