Is it safe to run outside during the coronavirus outbreak? Experts weigh in

Two experts weigh in on whether it's safe to run or exercise outside during the coronavirus pandemic.
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/ Source: TODAY
By Kerry Breen

As gyms close their doors to slow the spread of coronavirus, frequent runners have one question in mind: Is it safe to run outdoors?

Two experts said that exercising outside should be safe, as long as appropriate social distancing methods are maintained.

"I think it's really important to be able to get our exercise in, even if we can't go to the gym," said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who focuses on public health preparedness. "It's a wonderful way to keep up mental and physical health."

Experts say it's safe to run outdoors, so long as you're maintaining an appropriate distance between other runners. Getty Images

"As long as you're going to a non-crowded place ... at this point, I would encourage people to do that," said Dr. Saad Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health and a professor of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine. "Social distancing doesn't mean nature distancing. Go out, as long as you have distance."

Both doctors emphasized the need to keep a six-foot distance between yourself and other runners to maintain appropriate social distancing.

"As long as you are keeping at least a six-foot distance from the next person, running outside is particularly reasonable," said Omer. "I think it's healthy to do that."

Even in cities like San Francisco, where there is currently a shelter in place order out, people are allowed to leave their homes to exercise as long as they are practicing safe social distancing.

Omer said that running outdoors poses less risk of spreading the coronavirus, as opposed to exercising in a gym or workout class.

"We know that there is a radius where droplets settle on surfaces, and people touch them," he said. "That is the risk of transmission. Outdoors, when you're jogging and moving around, that's a different thing. You're not touching things ... For the sake of the community and your own loved ones, it's best to avoid places where you're touching things."

Watson added that people can even run in parks and other areas, so long as they are not being closed by governing bodies and they are not too crowded.

"I think if it's a really crowded space, then definitely avoid it, but if you're just going to pass by people, I think people are being pretty wary about staying six feet apart right now," she said. "As long as it's not a very crowded space, I think it's OK to go out along your normal routes."