Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic

For many people, the summer of 2020 has been like no other in recent memory. Public health restrictions caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have led to cancelled festivals, concerts and other events. Many vacations and large celebrations have been limited or put on hold.

Despite the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there's still plenty of fun to be had. In fact, seeking out fun activities may be even more important now. Doing something you enjoy can distract you from problems and help you cope with life's challenges.

When activities are near where you live and allow plenty of space between you and others, outdoor activities pose a lower risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus than indoor activities do.

Why choose outdoor activities?

The COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing. When you're indoors, you're more likely to inhale these droplets from an infected person, especially if you're in close contact, because you're sharing more air than you do outdoors. Poor building ventilation can cause droplets to hang in the air for a longer period of time, adding to the potential for infection.

When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So, you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected.

Being outside offers other benefits, too. It offers an emotional boost and can help you feel less tense, stressed, angry or depressed.

Low-risk ways to move more

Coming into close contact with people who don't live with you increases your risk of being exposed to someone infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. That's why, in general, any activity that allows you to keep a social distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others is lower-risk.

There are many activities you can enjoy close to home, whether you're visiting your favorite public park or even spending time in your neighborhood. Get moving with these low-risk outdoor activities during the pandemic:

  • Walking, running and hiking
  • Rollerblading and biking
  • Fishing and hunting
  • Golfing
  • Kayaking, boating and sailing
  • Fitness classes, held outside, that allow distance

Avoid crowded sidewalks and narrow paths and choose routes that make it easy to keep your distance. Wear a mask when you can't maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) from people you don't live with. Don't wear a mask during activities in which it might get wet, such as swimming.

Low-risk social activities

Many other outdoor activities can be good choices, too:

  • Picnics. Pack food from home or pick up takeout from your favorite restaurant or food truck and take it to enjoy at your favorite public park.
  • Farmers markets. Wear a mask and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others.
  • Gathering with friends. Allow for social distancing between people from different households and skip the hugs and handshakes. Plan activities that don't require close contact, such as sidewalk chalk for kids and games like Frisbee. And offer hand sanitizer.

    Remember that just getting together for a chat at a safe distance can offer a valuable opportunity to be with people you care about — and boost your mood at the same time.

  • Drive-in movies. The COVID-19 pandemic has launched a drive-in movie theater comeback in the U.S. It's something many people can enjoy together with plenty of physical distance.

Low- to moderate-risk outdoor activities

Depending on how they're done, many popular outdoor activities can also be done safely, including:

  • Restaurant patio dining. Outdoor patio dining at uncrowded restaurants where patio tables are spaced appropriately is safer than indoor dining. Wear a mask when not eating or drinking.
  • Camping. If you only have close contact with people you live with, camping is low-risk. If you camp with people outside your household, camp in separate tents spaced at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart and avoid sharing camping supplies, including food and drinks. Pack hand soap, hand sanitizer and supplies to clean and disinfect commonly-touched surfaces.
  • Swimming pools and beaches. Close contact (closer than 6 feet, or 2 meters) with others — not water itself — can make these activities risky. If you go to the beach and come into close contact with others, your risk is higher. Water itself doesn't seem to spread the COVID-19 virus to people.
  • BBQs and outdoor potlucks. Keep your gathering small, maintaining social distance from others. Plan activities that don't require close contact. You may even choose to have everyone bring their own food and drinks to enjoy the togetherness with less chance of virus spread. Wear a mask when not eating or drinking.
  • Sports and sporting events. Contact sports, such as wrestling and basketball, carry more COVID-19 risk than others. Team sports such as tennis, baseball, softball and soccer, pose less risk because players can maintain physical distance. It's important for spectators, players and coaches to keep social distance. Wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and ensure you have enough social distance — at least 6 feet (2 meters) — between you and other spectators, whether you're standing, sitting in chairs or sharing bleachers.

High-risk outdoor activities

Bringing many people together in close contact for a longer period of time poses the highest risk of COVID-19 spread.

Examples include:

  • Large gatherings. Being in large crowds of people where it's difficult to stay spaced at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart poses the highest risk. The longer people are together in these situations, the higher the risk. Weddings, festivals and parades are examples.
  • Summer camp activities. Camps are generally high-risk because campers come from different locations and spend a lot of time together indoors, in close contact.

    Camps can pose less risk if campers are from the same area, don't share objects, wear masks, and spend time outdoors with at least 6 feet (2 meters) between them.

  • Playgrounds. The many frequently-touched surfaces of playground equipment make it easier to transmit the virus that causes COVID-19. However, in many areas, parks and playgrounds are open. Children who use playground equipment should maintain distance from others and wash their hands afterwards to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Think safety and enjoyment

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it's important to take care of yourself and those around you. Practicing good hand hygiene such as washing your hands, not touching your face with unwashed hands, social distancing from others, and wearing a mask when you can't avoid being near other people are all good steps to take. These steps are especially important for those with a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

At the same time, well-being also includes doing things that make life worth living. With the right information, you can make thoughtful choices about ways to bring a sense of normalcy and joy to your life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Updated Aug 5, 2020


Content from Mayo Clinic ©1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use