How to Reduce Risks with Outdoor Winter Activities During COVID-19

Now that winter has officially set in, many people are thinking about which cold weather outdoor activities are safe during the Coronavirus Pandemic. There is no doubt that physical activity promotes our health and mental well-being, but how can you determine which winter activities are safer than others? Are there ways to reduce our risks while still getting outside potentially in more crowded spaces? Jan Carney, MD, MPH Associate Dean for Public Health & Health Policy recommends you check three things on your COVID-19 safety list before venturing out: how big are the potential crowds, can I safely distance from others, and will people be wearing mask?

Balance the Risk with the Activity

“Outdoor activities have great benefits, but with climbing infection rates, its best to consider a few key things,” commented Dr. Carney. “Know the local public health requirements of your state and plan your activities ahead. Consider distance between people, crowds, and whether everyone is wearing masks. People should consider their own health risks and determine the best way to stay safe and stay fit.”

Dr. Carney, recently featured in a USA Today article, reminds us how important the use of masks is to reduce risks of COVID-19 outbreaks. “In one notable study, masks protected customers of infected hair stylists. Similarly, masks can provide protection during air travel. Also, in large public gatherings, masks reduced risks of COVID-19 outbreaks, but large crowds – even outdoors – at the beach, in parks, or other places makes it harder to stay physically distant and carry higher risks.”

Make Sure You Know Before You Go

State requirements vary, and Dr. Carney says people need to check out the location in advance. Vermont ski resorts have embarked on a “Know Before You Go” campaign to help locals and travelers to the state have a successful and safe skiing  or riding experience. In the USA Today article, Dr. Carney suggested cross country skiing as a great alternative since it can easily be a socially distant activity with plenty of space while also providing great exercise.

“Solitary or near-solitary outdoor activities pose least risk. Walking or running outside in uncrowded areas or with a friend (if you are at least 6 feet apart) is a way to stay active. If you go ice skating at a public outdoor rink, consider how crowded it is and whether people are wearing masks.”

Snowshoeing, sledding, snow fort building, ice climbing, dog sledding rides, and hiking at a safe distance are also great ways to remain active in the winter.

UVM Master of Public Health Program

Dr. Carney directs UVM’s online Master of Public Health program which empowers students to provide solutions that improve the quality of life for people through blending public policy, research, and population health sciences. Learn more about the program today.

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