Yes, You Can Exercise Outdoors While Socially Distancing

Working out can be tricky during the pandemic, even outside. Here are ways to safely enjoy the Georgia sunshine.

running on a wooded path

Medically reviewed in April 2022

Updated on June 10, 2020

Gyms in Georgia have re-opened for business. But if you’re not quite ready to get back on the treadmill alongside others, consider turning to at-home or outdoor workouts to stay in shape.

Pandemic or not, exercise still remains important for optimal health. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-level activity weekly, while strength training all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

But as social distancing recommendations start to bump into warmer weather, getting adequate exercise can feel like a tall order. How can you safely enjoy the fresh air when more people are crowding the streets?

Here are some ideas on how to safely head outside and get your training in.

Maintain proper social distancing
COVID-19 is commonly passed through respiratory droplets that are spread from person to person in close proximity when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes or even just speaks. These droplets can travel about 6 feet from an infected person’s body, which is why health experts recommend staying at least that far away from folks outside of your household.

Remember that it’s fine to exercise outside by yourself or with the people you already live with, but it’s not yet the time to meet up with anyone else. If you do happen to see someone else during your walk, run or bike ride, cross the street or move to the side to pass from a safe distance.

Consider avoiding crowded outdoor spaces
For many Georgians, exercising outdoors away from others is no problem at all. But some people, especially those in more densely populated areas, may find the local parks, trails, pools and beaches that were popular before the pandemic to be more packed than ever. In fact, some Georgia parks are limiting visitor access to encourage social distancing and protect public health.

Rather than join the crowds, seek new outdoor spaces that are less trafficked. If your parks are allowing people in, consider working out in a small corner of the grass or keeping your walk to the perimeter of the park.

Another option is sticking to your neighborhood streets. While your town may see an influx of people doing the same thing, there is potentially less car traffic, leaving more space to offer a friendly wave to passersby.

Exercise during non-peak hours
Lunchtime, late afternoon and early evening are still prime times to work out. Unfortunately, these can be peak hours, which means you’ll encounter more people trying to get some fresh air. Schedule permitting, try to exercise outdoors in the early morning or during other hours in the day.

If you’re new to training outside, check out neighborhood apps, like Nextdoor, to connect with other locals, ask questions and get insight on daily patterns specific to where you live. This can help you plan outdoor adventures accordingly.

Consider a mask
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that adults wear cloth face masks while outside their own homes to prevent further spread of COVID-19. However, in an April Executive Order, Governor Kemp made an exception for Georgians who are eating, drinking or exercising outdoors.

So, what should you do? In densely populated areas, since it may be impossible to maintain social distance during physical activity, you may want to work out with a mask anyway. It’s a good idea to have one with you, just in case. Those living in rural or spread-out suburban areas have more flexibility.

If you are wearing a mask while you run or bike, just bear in mind that the covering will lessen the volume of air you can take in with each breath. So, you may want to reduce your pace a bit when you work out, at least until your body becomes accustomed to the reduced airflow.

As always, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen.

Article sources open article sources

CDC. “How much physical activity do adults need?”  March 19, 2020.
Health.gov. “Staying Active While Social Distancing: Questions and Answers.” April 7, 2020.
Dana Kozlov. “Beck, Lightfoot On Stay At Home Order: Citations To Be Issued, Parks Could Be Shut Down.” CBS Chicago. March 25, 2020.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “COVID-19 and Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites.” June 6, 2020.
CDC. “How to Protect Yourself & Others.” April 13, 2020.
Amanda Capritto. “Exercising outside during self quarantine: The do's and don'ts.” CNet.com. March 31, 2020.
Aubri Juhasz. “How Runners Can Keep Themselves And Others Safe During The Pandemic.” NPR. April 13, 2020.
Governor Brian P. Kemp Office of the Governor. “2020 Executive Orders: Providing additional guidance for reviving a healthy Georgia in response to COVID-19.” April 23, 2020.
Emma Dibdin. “How Does Running With a Mask Impact Your Performance?” Runner’s World. May 5, 2020.

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