May 19, 2021

COVID-19: How to Stay Safe During Outdoor Activities

A field guide to getting fresh air during the coronavirus outbreak

Man hiking by himself in the woods

While restrictions are loosening up, the pandemic still isn’t over. That means that we still need to be cautious in public spaces — including parks. It’s fine to go for a walk or hike outside in noncrowded areas. But there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. Infectious disease specialist, Frank Esper, MD, discusses what you need to know to stay safe before hitting up your favorite park or trail.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Social distancing is still in effect – even outside

We know that being outside is good for us. Nature and fresh air can help us relax and feel less stressed, which most of us could use!

“There’s something to be said about squirreling away in our houses for such a long period of time and then seeing people out and about,” says Dr. Esper. “It’s nice to actually see people doing normal things like walking a dog, jogging or just taking a baby for a stroll.”

But as nice as it is to physically see people, it’s important to remember that the same rules of social distancing that you follow indoors still apply while outdoors. It’s also encouraged to stay local if you can. Try visiting parks near your house to limit travel and plan your outings carefully. Think about what locations tend to get crowded and at what times.

Family members or those living in the same household can stay in close proximity at the park. But if you’re walking or hiking with neighbors or friends, then you’ll need to maintain a minimum of six feet. Also activities involving groups of people or physical contact (like a pickup game of soccer or flag football) are a no-go. However, if you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC says that indoor and outdoor activities pose a minimal risk to fully vaccinated people.

“I’ve seen some parks that are so crowded that it’s almost like an amusement park where you have to wait in line to get on the trail,” says Dr. Esper. “You’ll want to avoid being in a situation like that.”

If the park or trails appear to be too crowded and you can’t maintain a good social distance from others (or even find a parking spot for that matter!), it’s wise to move on or find another time to visit.

Advertisement

Before you go to the park, make sure you’ve packed water and snacks to avoid having to stop at the store. Try not to use public restrooms and don’t touch your face once you’re out and about. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after visiting a park or going outside. It’s also a good idea to limit the surfaces you touch – from park benches to trail maps.

Check official guidelines often

“In some areas where there’s higher cases of the virus, they have closed down parks just because there were too many people in too small of an acreage,” explains Dr. Esper.

It’s a good idea to be aware of park closures and do some research before going. Some national parks, beaches and other outdoor areas have been closed to maintain a safe level of social distancing. While in other areas, park entrance fees have been waived to encourage people to get outside and do something rather than being cooped up.

Before heading out, your best bet is to check with your local health officials either by looking online or by calling the park directly to see what the health guidelines are.

Keep in mind – things change quickly. It’s important to keep up-to-date on best practices and guidelines so you’re well informed.

Running & biking outside during coronavirus

Maybe you’ve picked up running during the coronavirus outbreak or perhaps you’re a veteran cyclist. Whatever your cardio career looks like, you might be wondering if you’re putting other people at risk while you’re out there huffing and puffing.

Advertisement

The coronavirus spreads primarily through coughing and sneezing. And when someone does this, they’re expelling little droplets that can travel about six feet out.

“When you’re running, you may be breathing hard, but you’re not really getting that type of force out that’s going to be able to expel the virus from so far away,” says Dr. Esper. “Although there might not be an exact science, the six-foot rule pretty much applies for everybody in every situation – whether you’re running, jogging or what have you.”

Other tips for runners and cyclists:

  • Choose your routes carefully to avoid high traffic areas.
  • Try to run or ride on sidewalks or trails and avoid busy roads to reduce the odds of getting in an accident.
  • Be mindful about the surfaces you touch when you’re out. For instance, use your elbow to touch cross walk buttons instead of your hand.
  • Remember to bring your sports water bottle or bag of nuts with you so you don’t have to make an unnecessary refueling stop.
  • Always stay at least six feet away from other people you might pass, and be sure to give proper notice when passing so you don’t catch someone off guard. (Since we all seem to be a little on guard these days to begin with!)

So go ahead – take the dog for a walk, ride your bike or hit up that running trail you’ve been meaning to visit. Just remember, we’re still in a pandemic and you still need to practice good social distancing, even outside.

Related Articles

crowd of people at music concert
February 5, 2024
What Constitutes a ‘Superspreader Event’?

Any large social gathering — from a family birthday party to an indoor music concert — has the potential to spread serious infection

Male with eyes closed sitting hunched over, pinching area between their eyes
January 29, 2024
Headache and Fatigue: 11 Possible Causes That Can Trigger Both

Many factors, like dehydration, a cold or even your medication, can result in these common symptoms

Female wrapped in blanket laying on sofa looking fatigued or unwell
January 23, 2024
How To Manage COVID Fatigue and Regain Your Energy

It’s important to connect with a healthcare provider, get quality sleep and balance your activities with your energy levels

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
January 19, 2024
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

Close-up of hands in lab gloves sorting vials and covid-19 blood sample
January 17, 2024
Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Variants

Just like the flu, COVID-19 will continue to evolve every year

Adult female on couch, coughing into crook of arm, holding thermometer
January 15, 2024
Prepping for Flurona: When COVID-19 and the Flu Strike at the Same Time

It’s best to treat flu-like symptoms as if you have COVID-19

positive COVID test with COVID virus molecules floating around it
December 20, 2023
How Long Does COVID-19 Last if You’re Vaccinated?

The duration varies, but symptoms can linger for a few days up to a couple weeks or more

Baby receiving a shot in their leg by healthcare worker in pink
December 6, 2023
COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids: What To Know and Why It’s Important

Children as young as 6 months should get vaccinated

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad