Are Outdoor Fitness Classes Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic?


While the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt daily life, people are thinking of ways to stay in shape.

Throughout the United States, some states have not reopened gyms, but others have. These newly opened gyms have led to hundreds of people potentially being exposed to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, a Planet Fitness in West Virginia urged more than 200 people to quarantine after a member tested positive for coronavirus. According to a press release from the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD), a patron who visited the Morgantown location on June 24 between 9 am and 3 pm may have exposed 205 people to the novel virus.

Experts told "Today" that while no activity is completely safe, outdoor workouts can reduce the risk for the deadly virus compared to an indoor gym.

"Doing group exercise activities outdoors is going to be much safer than doing (it) indoors," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland, and an infectious disease physician told the outlet.

Are there any exercises that are safer than others?

According to Saad Omer, the Yale Institute for Global Health and a professor of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, people should focus on “low-impact exercises."

"Studies that were done on indoor classes found that classes like yoga and Pilates had a lot lower risk than some of the more aggressive exercises," Omer said.

Fitness instructors should also avoid yelling during classes due to droplets spreading when people speak loudly.

 How much distancing is necessary when working out outdoors?

Dr. Lawrence Stanberry, director of the programs in global health at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, said if an instructor is hosting a class outside, people should be far apart from each other.

"If you're outside, if you're spread out pretty far if you're not breathing hard, the risk should be extremely low," Stanberry said.

"The more distance, the better," Omer added. "6 feet is a recommendation but if you can go beyond that, do."

While taking precautions, Stanberry said outdoor activity will help people stay physically and mentally healthy amid the ongoing pandemic.

"This virus isn't going to go away," Stanberry said. "I can only imagine how crazy people would be if they stayed in all summer, all fall, and then were forced to stay indoors all winter ... People need to get outside."

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