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The do's and don'ts of exercising in New York during the shutdown

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

Running or cycling around outside is a huge stress reliever and favorite pastime for many New Yorkers, but with new health rules in place, it's hard to know if or how we should continue with our daily exercise routines.

So before you put your running shoes on (or away) for good, here's what you need to know about exercising outside:

Is it safe and legal to run outside?

Yes, it is safe and legal to exercise outside, although there's more to know about doing it safely. You can continue doing it unless you are feeling sick or have tested positive.

Do I have to wear a mask while I'm running or cycling?

No—the only time you need to wear a mask in New York City is if you cannot maintain social distancing of six feet—that goes for anyone. The best idea is to carry a mask with you when you go out and put it on when you come upon a busy intersection or cannot stay away from others. If you don't, you may be fined since it's required when social distancing isn't possible.

There is currently no credible proof that exercising spreads the illness any more than just walking.

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How far away do I need to stay from others?

As always, maintain a space of at least six feet between you and another person, even when you're running. If you can't do that, put on your mask.

Can I run with others?

As long as you can keep six feet away from them, yes, but don't run or exercise in groups. Keep it to a minimum.

How will a mask affect my breathing while working out?

"People exercising with a face mask may feel some resistance to breathing, depending on the thickness of the mask material," Bryanne Bellovary, a doctoral student researching exercise in extreme environments at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque told the New York Times.

Exercising in a mask can also cause it to get excessively steamy underneath, which may decrease the anti-microbial effectiveness of it.

Is there a better option to cover my face with than a mask?

Try a buff, which is a tube of light-weight, stretchy material that you can leave around your neck and pull up when needed. It's not as effective as a mask for preventing the spread of germs, however, it should stop respiratory droplets from escaping. Even so, the most important thing you do, whatever kind of covering you have, is to keep your distance.

Can I spread the contagion through my sweat?

Nope! As far as the CDC knows, it only spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

What about spit?

Yes. Do not spit or shoot a snot rocket while out and about. Just don't do it.

"Spit contains saliva but could also contain sputum from the lungs or drainage from the posterior nasopharynx," Dr. Amy Treakle an infectious disease specialist with The Polyclinic, tells Runner's World.

Are parks still open?

Right now, all parks in New York City are open, but again, you must keep your distance or you may be fined up to $1,000 for not practicing social distancing. If you're around other people without a mask, you may also find yourself in hot water. So just be careful when you're at the park.

Can I use my park's fitness equipment?

We wouldn't—while there's no citywide closure of parks' fitness equipment, parks around the city are closing off their fitness areas to prevent the spread, including McCarren Park in Brooklyn and Astoria Park in Queens.

You also can't play any group sports. According to NYC Parks, Basketball, handball, bocce, volleyball and tennis courts are closed and locked and all basketball court rims and tennis nets have been removed. 

Can my workout clothes or shoes carry the virus?

It's unclear what the risk is of catching it from clothing, but the World Health Organization says that studies have shown that it can survive for less than 24 hours on cardboard. This is important because, according to a study written about in the New York Times, the absorbent, natural fibers in the cardboard appear to cause the virus to dry up more quickly than it does on hard surfaces. "The fibers in fabric would be likely to produce a similar effect," the Times says. Whatever the case is, just be sure to wash your hands as soon as you can, and leave your shoes at the door.

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