Source: Business Insider
Since the coronavirus outbreak began in the United States, public-health messaging has been muddy, inconsistent, and constantly changing — and the confusion about if and how you can get outside during a pandemic is understandable.
When communities issued shelter-in-place orders, the fine print almost always said people could, and even should, go outside to exercise. The orders were reasonably interpreted literally, but health professionals and city officials didn’t intend to discourage people who are healthy from going outside and exercising.
Messages in the US to “stay home” and “shelter in place” are poorly worded. Americans well into their second month of a lockdown need to get outside for the sake of our collective mental and physical health. Time outside, and especially exercise outside, has phenomenal benefits for your mental health and immune function.
Passing someone running or cycling within 6 feet while outdoors would be an exceptionally unusual way to contract the virus, infectious-disease specialists say.
When taking precautions like keeping a safe distance from others and wearing a mask, spreading or contracting the novel coronavirus in open air are so highly unlikely that the benefits of sun, mental health, immune-system strengthening, physically distant human interaction, and building herd immunity far outweigh them.
“I don’t need to quote a study to let you know that if you’ve been inside all day, a little time outdoors will improve your mood,” Dr. Jebidiah Ballard, an emergency medicine physician says. “Vitamin D also plays a role in immune function, and sunlight is needed for our bodies to convert it to its active form.”
Indeed, Zhen Yan, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Virginia, has proposed exercise as a recommended measure in conjunction with social distancing because his research suggests it may protect against acute respiratory distress syndrome, a top cause of death among COVID-19 patients.
“The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; fewer is better than more people; and stay away from sick people,” according to Dr. Erich Anderer, a neurosurgeon and founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners.
“Just seeing the blue sky when you’ve haven’t been outside your house for long periods of time has definite effects on mood,” adds Sue Anne Bell, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Michigan. “We’re under a lot of stress and pressure in these highly unusual times, so going for a walk to clear your mind is really healthy for you — if you can do it safely.”