Waterfront trail, The Beaches, Toronto

How to Run Outdoors Safely During the Coronavirus Outbreak

You can – and should – still run outdoors during the Coronavirus Pandemic, with the right precautions. Here’s a primer.

By Dave Carpenter

note: the advice here is based on current Canadian municipal, provincial and federal agency laws and guidance. Make sure to research appropriate health protocols as they relate to running outdoors in your province, state or country.

Yes, You Can Run Outside During The COVID-19 Oubreak

While we should all heed the health community and government’s precautions during the coronavirus outbreak, that doesn’t mean you have to stop running outdoors. In fact, you may want to lace up now more than ever, given running’s myriad benefits to your physical and mental health, particularly as mandated social isolation stretches from days, into weeks and likely months.

How to Run Outdoors Safely

Sure, you may be bummed that your spring race got cancelled due to COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t run outdoors. That said, it’s best to run alone, or with somebody in your household in no more than groups of two-to-three. As well, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after your run.

While on your run, cough or sneeze into your elbow and avoid sharing your water bottle with others. Further, by law, at least in Ontario, you cannot run in designated athletics fields, public parks or running tracks unless you enjoy getting arrested or paying heavy fines.

Runners, wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap during the coronavirus outbreak.

Running’s Benefits Outweigh The Risks, With The Right Precautions

It may seem counter intuitive, what with the barrage of alarming news headlines everywhere on cable tv, news websites and social media channels, particularly in the past few days. Yet, by following common-sense precautions, the benefits of running during the outbreak outweigh the current risk of contracting COVID-19.

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, even running at a slow-to-moderate pace for around 5-15 minutes a day significantly reduces your risk of heart disease. Further, many studies also reveal moderately-paced running over shorter distances builds your immunity and lowers your risk of infection and respiratory illness.

The Coronavirus outbreak also poses an existential threat that feels beyond our control, increasing our mental distress; something that’s harder to gauge on a monitor. Yet, ever wonder why the world doesn’t seem like quite such a threatening place after going for a run? That’s because running, along with other cardiovascular-based activities, including biking, swimming – even shooting hoops in your basketball net in the driveway – can significantly boost your psychological well being.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, doctors now regularly prescribe physical exercise as often as they do medication for conditions such as anxiety and depression. Running stimulates the release of endorphins: chemicals in your brain associated with relieving pain, boosting your immune system and that feeling of contentment you feel over post-run coffee with friends. Ever feel like most of your ‘a-ha’ moments hit you while out for a run? An insight into how to tackle some challenge on the work or home front? You can thank the elevated endorphins running produces for that, too.

Connecting Socially Via Running Makes Us Human.

At the end of the day, spending time connecting with people is what makes us human, and therefore healthier and happier. To be sure, the Coronavirus outbreak poses a significant existential threat, the likes of which humanity hasn’t endured in decades. However, you can still safely run with your mates as long as you exercise caution by integrating these safety protocols.

The Skinny on Running Outdoors Safely:

  1. Run with one-to-two household members, with whom you’ve practised diligent social distancing for at least a few weeks.
  2. Run two metres apart (about the length of a hockey stick) from your running partners and all others you pass along your route.
  3. If possible, choose a running route with less foot traffic.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after your run.
  5. Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  6. Avoid sharing your water bottle with others.
  7. Wear a mask while running if it makes you feel more comfortable.
  8. Avoid designated sports fields, playgrounds and running tracks are off limits and subject to fines.

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