While we should all heed the health community and government’s precautions amid the current coronavirus outbreak, thankfully, that doesn’t mean you have to stop running. In fact, you may want to lace up now more than ever, given running’s myriad benefits to your physical and mental health.
Sure, you may be bummed that your spring race got canceled due to COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t run outdoors, even in small groups, according to Dr. Sara Pickersgill, a physician in the emergency department at St Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto.
“Running and outdoor pursuits are critical right now, for mental health as much as anything. I would say run alone, or with somebody in your household. No more group runs over three people.” Pickersgill says.
Dr. Pickersgill also recommends washing your hands with soap and warm water before and after your run, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and avoid sharing your water bottle with others.
Running’s Benefits Outweigh the Risks
It may seem counter intuitive, what with the barrage of alarming news headlines everywhere on cable tv, news websites and social media channels, particularly in the past few days. Yet, in fact, by following these common-sense precautions, the benefits of running during the outbreak far outweigh the current risk of contracting COVID-19. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, even running at a slow-to-moderate pace for around 5-15 minutes a day significantly reduces your risk of heart disease. All the more relevant right now, many studies also reveal that moderately-paced running over shorter distances builds your immunity, and thus, lowers your risk of infection and respiratory illness
The Coronavirus outbreak also poses an existential threat that feels beyond our control, increasing our mental distress; something that’s harder to gauge on a monitor. Yet, ever wonder why the world doesn’t seem like quite such a threatening place after going for a run? That’s because running, along with other cardiovascular-based activities, including biking, swimming – even shooting hoops in your basketball net in the driveway – can significantly boost your psychological well being.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, doctors now regularly prescribe physical exercise as often as they do medication for conditions such as anxiety and depression. Running stimulates the release of endorphins: chemicals in your brain associated with relieving pain, boosting your immune system and that feeling of contentment you feel over post-run coffee with friends. Ever feel like most of your ‘a-ha’ moments hit you while out for a run? An insight into how to tackle some challenges on the work or home front? You can thank the elevated endorphins running produces for that, too.
Yet, at a fundamental level, simply being around and connecting with people is what makes us human, and therefore healthier and happier. Indeed, the Coronavirus outbreak poses a threat to our well-being. However, you can still run with your mates as long as you exercise caution.
“RUNNING AND OUTDOOR PURSUITS ARE CRITICAL RIGHT NOW, FOR MENTAL HEALTH AS MUCH AS ANYTHING. I WOULD SAY RUN ALONE, OR WITH SOMEBODY IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD. NO MORE GROUP RUNS OVER THREE PEOPLE. – Dr. Sara Pickersgill, emergency room physician, St Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto
This story was previously published on iRun.ca