As we continue to navigate the still-uncertain waters of the coronavirus pandemic, the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also continue to shift. Some areas of the country remain under strict stay-at-home orders, while others are trying to open back up and loosen their physical distancing rules as well. With everything continually changing, you might be wondering: Should I even go outside and, if so, how can I do it safely?
We get it: The idea of getting outside just to get a little fresh air is very appealing, particularly if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or stress brought on by the current times. It goes without saying that exercise and spending some time outdoors is truly beneficial for our mental health and overall well-being. But how can you do that safely with as little risk as possible -- for both you and other people? Let’s take a look at whether or not you should be going on walks as well as what precautions you should consider each time you set foot outdoors.
Take a Walk for your Health
Want to live longer? Lace up those sneakers and...start walking! Experts agree that walking just 30 minutes a day, five days per week can add as many as three years or more to your life! If strenuous exercise isn’t your thing, the simple activity of taking a walk has so many powerful health benefits all by itself. Done correctly, it can be the key to easing depression, boosting your memory, keeping your mind sharp, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and losing weight as well as reducing your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more! In fact, in the words of CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden, walking is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” How easy… how perfect!
Not convinced? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of taking a walk. Walking for just 25 minutes a day can decrease your risk of heart disease by as much as 35%, and a quick, post-meal walk can lower blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of diabetes. It can also prevent osteoarthritis by helping to lubricate the joints. Even a shorter walk has its perks! Experts report that for every minute of brisk walking, women can cut their risk of obesity by 5%. According to some estimates, this no-equipment-required, do-anywhere activity could save Americans more than $100 billion per year when it comes to healthcare costs.
Taking a stroll can even boost your mood and clear the mind. Several studies have found evidence that walking is just as effective as medications when it comes to lowering depression. Looking to relieve everyday stresses? As the open road stretches out in front of you and your mood-elevating endorphin levels rise, you’re more likely to feel that tension melt away. In fact, mindful walking provides you with the same stress-relieving benefits of meditation without having to sit still.
Not only does walking benefit your individual health, but it can also help to make your community stronger. Social scientists maintain that as more people get outside and take regular walks, neighborhood crime rates fall and the local economy ultimately improves. It’s also a wonderful way to connect with neighbors and meet new people -- while keeping a safe distance and wearing a mask during the current pandemic, of course. Walking can also benefit the littles, as well! Take the kids for a walk after supper to improve academic performance, reduce behavior problems, and promote better communication.
How to Go on a Walk Safely
While health experts are saying it’s safer to go outdoors (depending on what time you go and the area in which you live), we are adding an extra layer of what safety means when taking a walk outside. Here are some best-practices for staying safe as you hit the pavement.
- Wear a facial covering or mask -- or at least have it ready to put on if you happen to come across others on your stroll. Remember that a mask doesn’t protect you from getting the virus, but it does help you from spreading particles that might carry the infection.
- Try to find times (like early mornings and evenings) and areas where it’s less crowded but still safe. If necessary, scout out alternative routes such as on streets and sidewalks in residential areas where you might encounter fewer people.
- Make your walk shorter that day if you find that your usual spot is more crowded than you were expecting.
- While keeping a 6-foot distance is recommended, staying 10 feet apart is better -- and this applies even when you’re jogging in your neighborhood, walking your dog, or going for a hike.
- Avoid meeting up with strangers and/or friends for just a little while longer unless you plan to stay 6 feet apart at all times. A distance of 6 to 10 feet is farther than you might think, so if you’ll struggle to hold a conversation at that distance, go solo for now instead.
- Know the area and stay on designated paths. Venturing into unfamiliar territory is a dangerous idea -- coronavirus or not.
- Carry a fully charged phone with you and safely keep it close to your body and away from harmful EMF with a SportPort sports bra or top with a phone pocket.
- Consider other safety items to carry with you that running enthusiasts find useful. They can work great when going for a walk, too!
- Try to avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth while you’re outside until after you’ve washed up properly with antiviral soap.
- Sanitize door handles and anything else you touched when you reenter your home, including your phone if you took it out on your walk with you.
- Immuno-compromised people or high-risk elderly individuals might want to consider staying home, just to be on the safe side, especially if they live in a hard-hit area. There are plenty of exercises and activities that older adults can do from the comfort of their living rooms instead.
Remember that even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of the virus, you could still be a carrier. Even if you tested negative for COVID-19 yesterday, today is a new day. Every moment you spend around others who are not in your immediate household is a moment with risk. Be careful, cautious, smart, safe, and... healthy!
References & Additional Resources:
- Harvard Health Publishing: 5 Surprising Benefits of Walking
- Women’s Health: Is It Safe To Go On A Walk During The Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?
- SportPort: Calendar of Free Online Exercise, Health & Fitness Events
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