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Going Stir-Crazy? Ideas for Low-Risk Outdoor Activities

Man riding bike outside 

Posted April 9, 2020 by UVM Medical Center

It’s tempting during this time of important social isolation and government-issued stay at home orders to sit on the couch and watch a screen. It’s also important to keep our bodies active, even while remaining safely six feet apart. Under the current stay at home orders, you are allowed outside to exercise and do tasks around the house and yard. The National Fitness Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. What are you waiting for?

Safety First!

While the stay at home order doesn’t prevent us from leaving our homes to exercise, we should all be cautious about any activity or travel we make to prevent unnecessary injuries or accidents at this time. Our health system is preparing for a high volume of COVID-19 patients. We can help by staying out of the hospital so that hospital staff can serve those that need the most support and we ensure that protective resources and equipment are available to care for our community. When you do decide to get outside, here are some general guidelines we recommend:

Stay close to home

To reduce risk, walk on your street or a local wooded area instead of driving to a location. If you must drive, limit your travels from home to 10 miles, and only travel with members of your household.

Respect signs and cautions

Many public facilities, trails and parks are closed at this time to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Please respect these notices and choose alternative areas to exercise.

Do remember the social isolation recommendations and stay six feet away from other people you encounter. Slow down and move aside to let others pass, avoid crowding in public recreation areas and be patient. When you return home, wash your hands.

Wear proper clothing

Make sure your shoes and clothing fit properly and aren’t too restrictive. If you are exercising outside, wear reflective clothing and be aware of your environment. If you are exercising by yourself outside, and maintaining social distancing, you probably don’t need to wear a mask at this time.

Stay hydrated

We all wake up dehydrated. Start each day with an 8-ounce glass of water, and remember to drink some more water during the day. Coffee doesn’t count because it dehydrates you. Drink water with exercise, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Warm up before you exercise

Do a few stretches with your arms and legs to increase your blood flow and loosen your muscles. March in place for a minute or two before heading out.

Choose Low-Risk Activities

You may have more time on your hands these days, but now is not the time to tackle a risky household project or learn a new hobby or sport that could land you in the hospital. Here’s what you can do:

Take a Walk

Spring is here! Our region is beautiful this time of year and it’s a great time to go for a daily walk. Check out the trees beginning to bud. Watch the crocuses and daffodils beginning to sprout. As you walk each day, you will be able to watch spring unfold.

Get out Your Bike

Another option for exercise is to ride your bike. Take yourself or your family on a bike ride around the neighborhood. For families with children, biking could become the ‘gym’ portion of home schooling. Exercise releases endorphins – happy hormones – so everyone will feel a little less cranky after they move their bodies. Remember to always wear your helmet!

Get out in Your Garden

Put your spring fever to use by tending to your emerging gardens. Be careful not to strain your back and knees. Pace yourself, it doesn’t need to all be done in a day. Raking and pruning away winter stems and stalks are great ways to get fresh air while social distancing. If you don’t have a garden, consider starting a container garden on your deck. You still get the benefits of digging in the dirt, and growing flowers or produce.

Can’t Get Out of the House?

It’s still important to exercise. If you have access to the internet, there are lots of online exercise videos you can use. Find one that fits your fitness level, and yet challenges you a little bit. Silver Sneakers, the Y exercise program, has a variety of short exercise programs you can do right in your home. Check out th Silver Sneakers YouTube Channel here.

There are plenty of low-risk, safe and healthy activities to do outside. After all, there is healing in nature. Spending as little as five minutes per day outside in green space helps reduce your cortisol, the hormone that produces stress. Take care of yourself, get outside and most importantly, stay active!

Catherine Shearer, PT, is a physical therapist and therapy research educator at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She specializes in geriatrics and falls/balance. She treats patients with conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and neurological movement disorders.