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August 25, 2021 9 min read

Low-risk Outdoor Activities During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, even though millions of people are getting their first or second vaccine dose. Until the coronavirus is finally dealt with, however, we’ll all still need to practice reasonable safety precautions and follow the social distancing measures of at least 6 feet apart.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up indoors all the time! Summer is right around the corner, and it’s a good idea to find some fun things to do outdoors. 

Let’s break down 30 things to do outdoors in a pandemic with each section categorized from low risk to high risk.

paddle boarding using gili meno

Why choose outdoor activities?

Since research indicates that COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets you exhale when you talk or breathe, enjoying outdoor activities is much safer. Fresh air in the outdoors constantly circulates and disperses any virus-containing droplets, minimizing the likelihood of you, your friends, or your family becoming infected. When you engage in indoor activities, you’re more likely to either transmit the virus to others, or catch the virus from someone already infected.

The benefits of being outdoors

Man running on a highway

Alongside a lower risk of contracting COVID-19, outdoor activities provide ancillary benefits like:

  • Allowing your skin to produce vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunshine
  • Boosting your cardiovascular and overall physical health
  • Reduction of stress and overall better mental health when you spend time out in nature (research shows that being outdoors really leads to greater wellbeing) 

All told, outdoor activities allow you to reconnect with nature and feel better physically. We could all use some more outdoor time after a year of being more or less cooped up.

How can I help slow the spread of COVID-19 when I go outside?

The CDC has some official information and guidelines to help you prevent transmission of COVID-19 when you’re enjoying your outdoor activities:

  • Have a plan, and familiarize yourself with any local public health guidelines that might affect you before leaving your house
  • Use social distance-approved transportation options if possible. If you have to use public transit, take care of yourself and others by staying at least 6 feet away from other passengers
  • Limit your contact with other people when doing errands
  • Try to choose low-risk activities (more information on those below)
  • Educate your children of the importance of following social distancing guidelines

What Activities Are Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

First off, it is important to make clear that, during these uncertain times, no activity can be considered truly ‘safe’ when dealing with a global pandemic. 

However,  we can say with some degree of certainty that any activities that are outdoors and avoid close contact with others will be among the ‘safer’ options. The more air circulation that’s present and the more space there is between people, the lower the likelihood is of COVID-19 being transmitted to another person.

Is it safe to go to the beach during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It can be, but information gathered from the CDC stresses how important it is to practice excellent social distancing and healthy procedures while at the beach to avoid close contact with others.

This includes socially and at least 6 feet physically distancing wherever possible as well as avoiding close contact from another person. You should also stagger the use of a shared space like locker rooms or bathrooms, wear a cloth mask at all times unless you are in the ocean, and ensure that you and your children practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands more frequently.

Below, you’ll find a list of relatively safe outdoor activities to enjoy during the pandemic. These aren’t in any particular order but are instead ranked from lowest to the highest risk of transmission and infection.

Low Risk Things to Do Outside

Any “low transmission probability” activities have a low likelihood of coronavirus transmission between people, provided that they practice social distancing and wear masks when appropriate.

Paddleboarding

Man using inflatable paddle board meno

Paddleboarding can be fantastic fun at a local town lake or on the ocean. It is an excellent workout, keeps you far away from other people, and is a great way to get children outside. Find a stand-up paddleboard that works for you and explore nature in a whole new light.

Hiking

Taking time to hike mountains, your local state park, or other hiking trails are great ways to get in nature, reduce stress, spend time with family members regardless of age, and see splendid vistas that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Fishing

Catching fish has long been known as a relaxing pastime for outdoors enthusiasts. You and your family can enjoy this on your private boat, on a dock or pier, or even on a paddleboard to access deeper waters and other natural destinations you otherwise would never see.

Walking, Jogging, or Running

You can get plenty of exercise and stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic by walking, jogging, or running around a neighborhood route or through a local park. The combination of being in nature and experiencing the “runner’s high” is a stellar way to reduce stress.

Golfing

Golfing isn’t just for old retirees or business people – it’s also an excellent physical activity and a chance to bond while staying socially distant from your friends.

Rock or Ice Climbing

Rock climbing or ice climbing can be a great way to enjoy summer or winter weather while also getting a killer workout.

Kayaking

Man kayaking with life vest

Kayaking is one of the best ways to get out in nature and enjoy lakes and coastlines, as you get plenty of exercise and have much more freedom than if you took a boat. If you already have a paddleboard, you can convert it to a kayak with a special gear kit!

Boating or Sailing

Rent a boat or take a boat you already own out on the water to get some sunshine, fresh air, and spend time with your loved ones in relaxing scenery other than your living room - Just be sure to check the weather before heading out!

Skiing

Skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, particularly if you like the thrill of speeding down snowy slopes. Be sure to select a site or location that doesn't have many trees.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding can also be a fun winter sport for you and the older children of your family, especially since it’s a little easier to grasp for beginners than skiing.

KiteSurfing

Try kitesurfing if you already have some surfing experience and want a more extreme, exhilarating water sport to spend your time outdoors mastering.

Home Workouts

Keeping fit is incredibly important, and doubly so during the pandemic – keep the probability of COVID-19 transmission low by enjoying a home workout instead of going to a local gym. 

Yoga

Man and woman yoga pose on a komodo board

 

Yoga is the flagship self-care habit. It’s not only a good way to stay in shape, but it’s also a great way to stay flexible and limber when you work from home - and you can practice in your own yard! Take it to the next level and try paddleboard yoga.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises might not seem very active, but this self care hack is indeed energizing. Hundreds of research papers solidify claims that conscious breathwork improves both physical and mental health, staves off depression, and clears your thoughts. Just be sure to practice in an open area, keep a safe distance from others, and don’t stand up directly after completing the breathing.

Bicycling

If you have a bike, start a habit of going for a short ride around your neighborhood. If you have a family, have everyone ride their bikes on a dedicated biking trail in nature. 

Swimming in Lakes & Beaches

Swimming is a whole-body cardiovascular activity that can help you stay fit, maintain your health, and chase away COVID-19-related depression while cooling off from the summer heat all at the same time.

Local photography

If you’re of a more artistic mindset, try local photography by going around your neighborhood or city and taking pictures of plants, animals, and things that interest you – a brisk walk as you snap your photos will burn plenty of calories along the way.

Start a Garden

You might also consider starting a backyard garden with the kids to get some extra sunshine and to be productive with your free time; the tasty veggies and fruits you’ll undoubtedly make are an added benefit. Be sure to select a site in your yard that has plenty of sunshine and drainage.

Low to Average Risk Things to Do Outside

If you don’t particularly care for any of the aforementioned activities, there are other (albeit slightly riskier) topics you might be interested in instead. These recreations are deemed “low risk” since they sometimes involve being around others, but still be sure to implement social distancing into the activities to minimize transmission likelihood. 

Bird Watching

Black and yellow bird on a branch

Bird watching or birding is a great way to get in touch with nature and train your brain to recognize the many different species of birds in local areas. Any others birding along with you will be far enough away that COVID-19 transmission will be unlikely.

Picnics

Take the children for a picnic at the local park and just be sure to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet away from others so you have a good time and don’t have to worry about transmission.

Drive-In Movie Theaters

Drive-in movie theaters are a fantastic replacement for closed, indoor theaters – you can stay comfy in your car, eat a bag of popcorn, and enjoy new movies almost as much as you might on the silver screen.

Moderate Risk Outdoor Activities

These activities also have a  relatively low risk of contracting coronavirus, but they are a little riskier than the aforementioned ideas depending on how careful you are about social distancing.

Camping

Camping is one of the most relaxing and rewarding pastimes and a great way to enjoy your vacation time. Be sure to set up your tent a safe distance away from others to minimize transmission likelihood.

Restaurant Patio Dining

Many restaurants are now opening their patios for outdoor dining, so you can finally get your foodie fix and enjoy some summertime sunshine simultaneously. Don’t forget to put on your mask when getting up from the table, keep a safe distance from the staff, and follow the restaurant’s coronavirus rules & information.

Scenic Drive

Scenic driving moderate risk activity

A scenic drive is very low risk for COVID-19 transmission and can provide relief if staying in your house all day is starting to affect your mental health.

Small Gatherings

Provided everyone has been tested for the virus, follows social distancing rules, and agrees to wear a mask, small gatherings are likely not too risky and may allow you to connect with your friends and family after a year apart.

Outdoor Shops & Farmers Markets

Keep your mask on and take a stroll down to the local farmers market or browse shops with outdoor kiosks to spend some leisure time away from the house without catching the virus.

Low or Non-Contact Sports

As with small gatherings, low or no contact sports – provided they are enjoyed by others who have been tested for the virus – are great ways to enjoy the summer sunshine and get out some energy in a healthy manner, particularly for men.

Outdoor Activities That Have a High Probability of Transmission

Here are a few higher probability activities and events that present more of a risk for COVID-19 transmission. While they are still outdoors, you should ensure to take extra precautions to minimize the likelihood of coronavirus transmission as much as you can.

Concerts

Concerts and music events are a favorite activity for many people – you can head to a local concert so long as you have a couple of masks handy and the site features plenty of seating set apart for all the incoming guests.

Playgrounds

Kids playground high risk activities outdoor

Kids love playgrounds, and you can take your children to the local park playground or school playground provided the area has strict guidelines in place and your child can be trusted to wear their mask. Remember to wash your hands after returning home!

Public Gyms

Some public gyms are also opening their doors and can be a great choice if your home gym doesn’t have the right equipment for your workout. But take a bottle of hand sanitizer with you and be ready to wash your hands and body very well when you get home.

What are some things to keep in mind when outside the home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to the CDC, you can help to minimize COVID-19 transmission and keep yourself and your family safe if you regularly wear a mask that covers both your nose and mouth, as well as following social distancing guidelines of staying at least 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.

Furthermore, be sure to get the vaccine if possible, avoid areas with crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Hand sanitizer can also be quite handy.

Most Importantly, Be Safe & Have Fun!

The end COVID-19 is finally in sight, but it’s important to stay safe until we’re all vaccinated and restrictions are fully lifted. You can still enjoy the outdoor warmth and sunshine with all of the above activities provided you follow the CDC’s advice, plus practice safe social distancing and other healthcare guidelines.

Stay safe!

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Chief Paddler - Jay has been surfing and paddling for over 5 years. When he's not dreaming up new stuff at GILI, he's writing articles about paddling, out paddling, or often traveling.


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