Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message this week was clear:
“Go home and stay home.”
But public health officials also advise Canadians who try to follow this advice that they can – and even should – go out every day to exercise.
Government of Canada coronavirus website says, as long as you stay two meters from the others, you can “go outside to get some fresh air, run, ride a bike or walk the dog”.
But then came the footage of the crowded Vancouver seawall last Friday. The Vancouver Park Board has closed all public outdoor recreation facilities in its parks and beaches due to non-compliance with social distancing rules.
Ontario closed its provincial parks over the weekend because they were overcrowded.
Parks Canada closed vehicle access to its parks on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “High traffic levels have occurred in a number of parks, which has resulted in safety and public health concerns, as well than an increased risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. “
So, in this period of social distancing, which is allowed in terms of exit and exercise. How? How frequently? With whom?
We will try to dispel some confusion.
First, just an important note: this story applies to people who have no symptoms, who have not recently traveled abroad, and who have not been in contact with someone who has received a diagnosis of COVID-19.
This article is for people who practice social distance (or what some people now call physical distance).
According to social distancing guidelines, you can go out for groceries and other necessities. You can also go out for exercise.
But there are no clear guidelines in every province on where you can go, what you can do or for how long.
“We know what we are not supposed to do,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto.
“We wouldn’t be part of a group of people to jog together.” But he says with another person, whether it’s the person you live with or even a friend, as long as you keep that distance of two meters, you’re OK.
“As long as there is no contact, as long as you maintain a distance of two meters … I don’t see why it would be a problem.”
But that distance is crucial, says Dr. Zain Chagla, another infectious disease specialist from St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
“Even friends who live in different houses are exposed to different people,” he said. “And so their risk of getting the infection is going to be very different from that of someone who lives at home with you.” It is therefore safer to exercise with someone you live with.
How far can you go?
Last week, France tightened its rules on physical outings, ordering people to go out alone, less than a kilometer from the home, for an hour at most, once a day.
Chagla does not believe that such a strict order is necessary in Canada, but he understands the thinking behind it.
“I don’t think there should be a limit on the number of times you have to be outside,” he said, “but I think, you know, being near you or at know less about the routes you take [to take] is probably reasonable. “
He says if you are going to run, for example, trace the route in your head. Make sure you can keep that distance between yourself and others – maybe you can cross across the street, or run on someone’s lawn to avoid being too close to a stranger .
It’s the same with other activities like biking.
Can you play football or basketball with friends?
Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Eileen of Villa made it clear: “Playing soccer, basketball or other team sports with friends is not a social distancing,” he said. she said during a briefing on Tuesday.
No disagreement from infectious disease specialists.
“It’s really, really difficult to maintain that distance, to play soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball, that sort of thing,” said Chagla.
WATCH | Dr. Eileen de Villa explains the social distancing:
What about the playground?
You and the kids are out for a walk (keeping a social distance, of course) and notice that the playground is almost deserted. Kids can go and burn energy, right?
“Not acceptable. Not acceptable. Not acceptable,” said Bogoch. These are these high contact and high contact surfaces.
“A playground has surfaces and you have different children who could climb on all of these surfaces,” he said. And even if it’s empty now, it’s irrelevant.
“When you look at the number of children in the past few days, there could be, you know, 20, 50 or 100, who knows?”
WATCH | Ontario Premier Doug Ford Tells Parents Not To Take Children To The Park:
Questions have been raised about the safety of going outside for exercise if it means constantly taking an elevator to a common area like an entrance hall and opening a door shared by other residents.
Chagla says it can be done safely, being extremely careful to wash your hands after touching the elevator button or the door handle. And he has another suggestion to limit exposure.
“Maybe you go out for one or two walks and try to do whatever you need to do outside for those one or two walks, rather than going up and down, up and down.”
Is it better to give up exercise?
Much research on mental health shows that even a small amount of daily exercise can do wonders for a person’s mental health.
“I think we all feel a little stressed in these times of stress,” said Dr. David Gratzer, an affiliated psychiatrist at the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health. “Something that comes up again and again when talking about mental health and exercise is that a certain level of exercise is better than nothing.”
But he points out that exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going outside, if that worries you.
“There is a [Toronto] Raptor who talked about his exercise regimen while indoors. ”
De Villa agrees. “Staying at home can always mean staying active. You can try live online fitness classes or apps to guide your home workout for free,” she said in the same briefing.
Gratzer agrees that it’s important to make sure you do some sort of daily activity, especially at this time even if people stay more at home, stay indoors, don’t see friends or extended family.
“Particularly cardiovascular exercise, which seems to be useful for us both in terms of stress reduction, also in terms of treatment and prevention of major mental illnesses like major depressive disorder.”
And Gratzer says that people should also be aware that in times of stress, people can also develop serious mental illness, although this is rare.
“And so, when your child feels really overwhelmed and suicidal or your adult cousin feels the same way, it’s a medical emergency, whether or not there is a pandemic. And you should see a doctor, for example in an emergency service. ”