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How We Can — And Why We Should — Get Outside During the Pandemic

woman enjoying SUP on lake tahoe
How We Can — And Why We Should — Get Outside During the Pandemic
Being outside, doing something you enjoy is really good for you. It offers an emotional boost, helping you feel less tense, stressed, angry or depressed.

One thing has become clear during the pandemic, shut down and shelter in place orders — we really like to get outside. More than 40 percent of Americans said they plan to do more outside due to COVID-19 and social distancing rules.

Crowded trails, beaches and walking paths make it obvious that folks enjoy these activities even more when they cannot venture far from home. But passing a family on a tight single-track trail or finding a socially distanced patch of sand on a popular beach has also made it clear that pandemics and outdoor recreation don’t always co-exist well. We look at some ways to enjoy the outdoors safely.

Being Outdoors is Good For Body & Soul

Being outside, doing something you enjoy is really good for you. Not only can it distract you from problems, it offers an emotional boost, helping you feel less tense, stressed, angry or depressed.

Particularly for kids, the outdoors can provide a welcome break from online school work, social isolation and routine disruption, enhancing physical and mental health and development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, getting outside in nature can benefit children in these ways:

  • Physically healthier: Children play harder outdoors than indoors. More outdoor time is linked with improved motor development and lower obesity rates.
  • More engaged in learning: Playing outside promotes more curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Studies have found that children who spent more time in nature exploration had improved learning outcomes.
  • More positive in behavior: Research has found that when children spent time in natural settings, they had less anger and aggression. Impulse control also improves.
  • Mentally healthier: Stress and depression are lower for people who spend time in nature. Children show increased focus and reduced symptoms of for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

It’s Safer Outside Than In

When activities are near where you live and allow plenty of space between you and others, outdoor activities pose a lower risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus than indoor activities do.

The COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing. According to the Mayo Clinic, when you're indoors, you're more likely to inhale these droplets from an infected person. When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So, you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected.

In order to take advantage of our outdoor spaces safely, follow these recommendation from the CDC and Mayo Clinic:

  • Stay close to home.
  • Don’t visit crowded parks or campgrounds.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with. This includes family members.
  • Avoid crowded sidewalks and narrow paths and choose routes that make it easy to keep your distance.
  • Be respectful of public places that are closed right now. These closures are for your safety.
  • Avoid contact with shared surfaces and objects when possible, including playgrounds.
  • Wear a mask when you can't maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) from people you don't live with.
  • Avoid sporting equipment and activities that involve lots of people touching one object. For example, playing catch with a baseball or football.
  • When you come in, be sure to wash your hands.

What To Do

In Nevada, many of us can easily access parks, trails, and open spaces to relieve stress, get some fresh air, and stay active. The key is to choose uncrowded locations that meet the guidelines listed above.

  • Walking, running or hiking
  • Camping
  • Rollerblading, jump roping, slack lining
  • Road cycling or mountain biking
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Golf or tennis
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Kayaking, boating, SUP or sailing
  • Swimming
  • Fitness classes held outside, that allow distance

Play It Safe

Our communities need to manage health care resources to ensure those ill with CVOID-19 and other serious illnesses can get the care they need. That means this is no time to take unnecessary risks.

If you choose to swim in a river, make sure you’re aware of underwater obstacles and current strength. This isn’t the best time to try the big jump at the bike park or to try and set a PR on a downhill trail. Know the conditions of trails in relation to your fitness before you go. Watch the weather and don’t get caught without enough food or water if you’re heading into the backcountry. And if you’re feeling at all ill or have been in contact with someone who has fallen ill, stay home and monitor your health.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. Enjoying ourselves, managing our mental health, and staying fit and healthy is extremely important to our overall well-being. Outdoor recreation is one way we can work toward these goals. Especially when we do it safely.  

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