Even though gyms are reopening across the country, you might feel skittish about working out in an enclosed space with random people. Still, there's nothing like breathing through camel pose with strangers who smile when you make eye contact because yep, this pose is tough. If you're longing to kickbox without a Zoom screen in front of you, figuring out if outdoor workout classes are safe can bring some pizzazz back to your quarantine exercise routine.
Are Outdoor Fitness Classes Safe?
First things first: even if your county has approved group fitness classes outside doesn't mean you should go. "Just because you are outside exercising, it doesn’t mean you have zero chances of getting COVID-19," says Dr. Sanjeev Jain, M.D., a doctor double-board certified in immunology and internal medicine. "The risk is only minimized." Just like with any activity in 2020, you'll need to weigh your own risk factors and those of the people you're quarantining with against the benefits.
Still, working out in the great outdoors is a safer bet than heading into a stuffy gym during the pandemic. "Fitness classes outside are not as high-risk [as classes inside] because you are not breathing in the same air and the air is being dissipated outside," Dr. Jain says. "But social distancing precautions must still be practiced during these outside classes."
If you absolutely need to work out in a group fitness setting, it's far safer to do it outside than in. "Circulating air outside disburses particles from our breath much more quickly than indoor spaces do," says Heather Milton, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Health. Still, Milton tells Bustle, keeping your distance from others is paramount.
How Do You Stay Safe During An Outdoor Group Workout?
If you're going to unroll your mat in the park, you should absolutely be wearing a mask and keeping a very minimum of six feet of distance between you and other yogis, Milton tells Bustle. "Masks that are double-layered cotton are safe and effective," she says. You might even consider looking into masks for workouts, if you haven't already.
But even wearing the right kind of face-covering (and wearing it properly, over both your nose and mouth) may not be enough if you're not social distancing. If the Instagram-famous trainer doing a kickboxing session at a park near you is known for getting up in people's faces as a form of "motivation," it's less risky to take their Zoom class instead.
Before you venture into the great outdoors with your fellow fitness enthusiasts, make sure you check in about what kind of safety precautions are required. Are class attendees giving their info for potential contact tracing, and making sure they're not coming to class if they've been under the weather? How large is the class going to be? Will the instructor provide hand sanitizer, or is it BYO? Make sure you're in the know before signing up.
Is An Outdoor Fitness Class As Safe As A Solo Workout?
Working out on your own is the way to go if you want to keep your risk as low as you can, Milton says. Going on a hike along a sparsely populated trail or going on a run through an open park can be much safer than getting your sweat on in a group setting, because you just won't be breathing near people you don't live with.
Of course, Dr. Jain says, you need to remain aware of your surroundings at all time when you're working out alone — but it's pretty simple to maintain distance by jogging to the other side of the road when you need to. It's also much easier to breathe your own air when you're not awkwardly trying to keep at least six feet of space between you the rest of your burpee-performing classmates. Ultimately, if you're tempted by an outdoor fitness class, it's definitely less risky than an indoor class — though you still might be a bit safer jogging instead of joining in for the time being.
Dr. Sanjeev Jain, M.D., doctor double-board certified in immunology and internal medicine, Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic
Heather Milton, exercise physiologist, NYU Langone Health