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Sharp Health News

Outdoor fitness safety in the time of COVID-19

June 8, 2020

Outdoor fitness safety in the time of COVID-19
As states and counties ease stay-at-home orders, there is no doubt that our daily lives will still look dramatically different than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. One area in particular is fitness and exercise.

As gyms shuttered, people have turned to outdoor fitness. Whether it’s jogging, cycling or taking a home workout outside, many have used this opportunity to incorporate the great outdoors into their routines.

Whether you were an outdoor fitness enthusiast prior to the pandemic or discovered it as a result of social distancing, here are five tips to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.

  1. Bring a face covering and hand sanitizer.
    Although you probably don’t need to wear a face covering for the duration of your workout, most local and state ordinances require a face covering when you are within 6 feet of another person. You should have it readily available to wear should the need arise.

    Use hand sanitizer frequently, especially if you touch heavily used objects such as crosswalk buttons or railings on trails. The hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol and you should rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds.

  2. Bring plenty of water.
    Hydration is crucial when working out — and even more so as the temperature outside increases. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in. As the weather warms up, this is particularly important to keep in mind if you take your workout outdoors. It may be difficult to get access to water on-the-go and it is best to avoid using public water fountains at this time, so be prepared. Dehydration can occur quickly. Excessive thirst usually occurs after we’re already dehydrated. Drink plenty of water and often.

  3. Avoid places that are likely to be crowded.
    To maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others, avoid areas such as popular parks or trails. By staying away from crowds, you may not have to wear your mask around your mouth and nose, making it easier to breathe during your workout. By keeping to areas with fewer people, you are also less likely to spread or come in contact with the coronavirus.

    Also keep in mind that most states still prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people. If you are heading to a public space, go solo or only with members of your immediate household.

  4. Don’t push yourself too hard.
    While outdoor fitness has many benefits, it is not without its risks. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are common if you’re not careful. Furthermore, uneven ground or old equipment can mean sprains, strains or broken bones. You may be tempted to push yourself, but now might not be the time to make a new personal record on your mile or try an advanced exercise routine for the first time. Many exercise-related injuries are preventable with a little preparation and precaution.

  5. Have a plan in case something happens.
    Try as we might, injuries happen; having a plan in place before they occur can help keep the situation from going from bad to worse. Prior to the pandemic, minor fitness-related injuries would likely be treated at your primary care doctor’s office or urgent care centers. However, your family care doctor may have closed or shifted their practice to virtual care only. 
“Postponing care for too long can result in unnecessary suffering, avoidable complications and, in some cases, tragic outcomes,” warns Dr. Eric Strukel, medical director of the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Care Clinic.

He adds that while some primary care offices have closed and urgent care centers have reduced their hours, the Sharp Grossmont Care Clinic remains open without any reduction in its hours of operation (8 am to 11 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8 am to 8 pm on weekends).

“We see patients quickly, and patients usually go directly to their room after registering so you are not stuck sitting in a waiting room,” says Dr. Strukel. “The Care Clinic is a convenient and safe place to go for minor care issues.”

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