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Outdoor Activity has never been more important than it is now.But public messaging can be confusing. We hope what follows will help.

The Prime Minister has told Canadians to ‘go home and stay home’. My provincial health authority tells me to ‘Go for a walk in your neighbourhood park while maintaining distance from others.’  Who is right? They both are. But we need to understand the difference in these two messages.

The ‘go home and stay home’ message is central to ensuring we slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our health care system and cope. Increasing the physical distance between people, and reducing the pathways for contagion are critically important if our health care systems are to provide advanced care are to those who need it.

However, the chances that any one infected person needs advanced care is strongly correlated to their personal health. Physical and psychological. In addition, psychological health is an important factor in our ability to self care with physical distancing and rigorous hygiene.

We know that just being outside supports physical and psychological health. We also know that the two most powerful supports for health are social connection and physical activity. Outdoor Activity is a rich source for both.  Canada is in this for the long haul. Looking after our own health is part of our responsibility to others.

We encourage those who are not in quarantine to spend some time outdoors each day, providing they can maintain a physical distance of 2 meters from others.

Our suggestions for doing so responsibly are:

  • Create a ‘Pandemic Pod’. The Pod are the only people you will be able to be physically close to for the foreseeable future. The goal is to keep your Pod virus free.
    • Your Pod members are typically the people you live with, and nobody else. Those living alone may need to pod up with others, in which case keep the pod small.
    • Ideally, everyone in the pod maintains physical distance from non-pod members.
    • Everyone in the Pod practices good hygiene, especially handwashing, to avoid bringing infection into the Pod.
    • If a member of the pod is an essential worker who is not able to fully follow social distancing rules, hygiene is especially important.
  • Social distancing: When outside follow social distancing rules. In so doing, Consider the following:
    • If you are working out hard (running, cycling, etc.) you need to maintain greater distance from others because heavy breathing increases the chance of transmission.
    • ‘Mixed use’ pathways should by avoided by cyclists and other wheeled folks. They are too crowded.
    • Parks and recreational pathways are not ideal places to exercise because of crowding. Better choices are back alleys and residential streets.
    • In dense urban areas, there may be very limited, or no, opportunities to recreate outside. If low-density outdoor space is limited, don’t hoard it for yourself. Consider only going outside early or late in the day when people-pressures are lower.
    • Take ownership of your public space.  Social distancing may require walking on surfaces reserved for cars. Be safe and smart, but on quiet residential streets this is the moment for us to re-discover that cars belong to us, not vice versa.
    • Exercise in your neighbourhood, you will not be welcome to invade the space of other communities at this time.
  • Connect Socially, not physically: Although the term being used is ‘social distancing’, we are really talking about ‘physical distancing’. This is a golden opportunity to re-connect, or connect for the first time, with your neighbours. We are observing that the sudden sense of isolation many of us are feeling by ‘staying home’ is actually making much easier to open conversations on the street.

Good to know:

Health Authorities

What responsible behaviour looks like depends on where you live. Check out the health authority sites that apply to your area.

Outdoor Activity in                The Time of                     COVID-19

© Outdoor Council of Canada

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