Newswise — Even in these uneasy times that call for more time spent indoors amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s important to exercise regularly.
Staying active—running, in particular—can benefit not just your physical health but also your mental well-being.
Running promotes improved cardiovascular and pulmonary health. Specifically, it helps increase your lung capacity and make your heart more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout your entire body. These physiological benefits can be helpful in fighting not only acute respiratory illnesses (like COVID-19) but also chronic metabolic conditions that make us more susceptible to infection in the first place (such as diabetes).
“Typically, those who are physically fit have better immune systems and an improved ability to fight infections,” says Grace “Annie” Neurohr, DPT, CMTPT, a therapist and running specialist in the running program at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.
If you don’t have a treadmill at home, it’s OK to go for a run outside (most local stay-at-home orders still allow for outdoor exercise) provided you take the necessary precautions. “It’s good to get outside, get moving and get some sanity back in such a crazy time,” Neurohr says.
Running “can provide some structure to your day and build a routine that can help keep you from feeling bored or unmotivated,” Neurohr adds. “It also can help ward off depression or anxiety by releasing endorphins, hormones that help us feel happier, more positive and even hopeful,” she says.
Neurohr offers these tips for making outdoor running as safe as possible:
‘Avoid the crowds’
In the spirit of social distancing, pick times and routes that are less likely to be busy. “Try running earlier in the morning or during your lunch break to avoid the crowds. Also, try running on trails rather than a busy park or sidewalk. This will allow you more open space, a change of scenery and less frustration trying to dodge others,” Neurohr says.
As a runner, adhering to social distancing recommendations (staying at least six feet from others) might mean slowing down or stopping to let others pass safely and, if you’re running with someone, running in a single file rather than side-by-side.
Bring a mask
Especially if you’re in a busy area where sticking to that six-feet social distancing rule can be difficult, you should wear a mask. You don’t necessarily need to wear it for your entire run, Neurohr says. “You can have it loosely around your neck and then secure it in place when in close proximity of others,” she says.
Don’t run in an N95 mask. “They make breathing too difficult and should be saved for our healthcare providers and first responders,” Neurohr says. Instead, wear double-layered cloth masks that cover your entire mouth and nose. Wash your masks regularly.
Choose your running buddy wisely
About that running partner who may be tagging along with you:
Make sure it’s someone you interact with on a daily basis, like your spouse, your teenager, or a close co-worker if you're still reporting for work duties. “Now is not the time to introduce new training partners or join a new running group,” Neurohr says.
Take it easy
Whether you run with a friend or solo, don't overdo it.
“It can be easy to get hooked on running when there's not much else to do,” Neurohr says.
As you would normally, avoid ramping up too fast and take rest days to avoid overuse injuries and keep from overtraining.
Also, complement your running routine with what Neurohr calls “accessory work.”
“This can include core exercises, cross training, strength training, and regular stretching or yoga to help keep yourself injury-free,” she says.
To learn more about the running program at Sinai or to make an appointment, call 410-601-4353 (ask to speak to Annie Neurohr).
Visit lifebridgehealth.org or call 410-601-WELL to learn more about our other services at LifeBridge Health and scheduling an appointment.