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Health Care

COVID-19 and Outdoor Recreation: More Evidence It’s Safe and Beneficial to Exercise

A person runs through the annual cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Earlier this month, I wrote about one of the many perversities of coronavirus-lockdown logic: namely, how so much public-health messaging discouraged not just indoor exercise (an understandable step early on, when coronavirus mysteries still abounded) but also many forms of outdoor recreation, resulting in many people gaining weight. This, in turn, made them more susceptible to serious bouts of coronavirus, as being overweight has proved to be a powerful coronavirus comorbidity. I therefore called for people to start exercising again, as not only is being outdoors safer than people had been led to believe, but also being physically fit is a way to strengthen oneself against affliction. 

Over the past week, more evidence has emerged, in “mainstream” publications, to support my assertions. First, in the Washington Post on April 13 came proof that outdoor transmission of coronavirus is indeed quite rare. From, “A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside“: 

. . . many scientists and public health experts . . . say that the outdoor spaces now warming under spring sun should be viewed as havens in the battle against a stubborn virus and restriction-induced fatigue. For more than a year, the vast majority of documented coronavirus clusters have been linked to indoor or indoor-outdoor settings — households, meatpacking plants, nursing homes and restaurants. Near-absent are examples of transmission at beaches and other open spaces where breezes disperse airborne particles, distancing is easier, and humidity and sunlight render the coronavirus less viable.

And in the New York Times on April 14 came proof that physical fitness can reinforce the human body against serious COVID infection. From “Regular Exercise May Help Protect Against Severe Covid“: 

More exercise means less risk of developing severe Covid, according to a compelling new study of physical activity and coronavirus hospitalizations. The study, which involved almost 50,000 Californians who developed Covid, found that those who had been the most active before falling ill were the least likely to be hospitalized or die as a result of their illness.

The data were gathered before Covid vaccines became available and do not suggest that exercise can substitute in any way for immunization. But they do intimate that regular exercise — whether it’s going for a swim, walk, run or bike ride — can substantially lower our chances of becoming seriously ill if we do become infected.

These scientific affirmations of common sense come a bit belatedly, but I welcome them nonetheless. And so I once again encourage people to go outside, to abandon the Netflix-and-delivery lifestyle too many have become accustomed to, and to get in better shape. It is well past time to reenter the world.

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