In these challenging times – with the corona virus and the necessary social distancing in place to stop its spread, we will all be very much restricted socially over the coming weeks.
However, it’s important – both physically and mentally – to maintain some kind of healthy routine, and thankfully the latest HSE guidelines in relation to Covid-19 allow for walking and other forms of exercise to take place. You can exercise at home – an important consideration for high-risk individuals. Alternatively, you can consider walking as a great way of maintaining good health as well as building a level of general fitness.
Of course this HSE advice comes with some caveats. So while we list the things you should keep in mind before you head out for a walk, note that these are our recommendations only, and anyone walking must consider the risks involved and take a sensible approach, in particular when walking with others or in areas where you may expect to encounter other members of the public.
Also note that the information and advice from the HSE may change at any time, so please log on to https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/ for the latest news and advice. Taking these on board should provide the balance and peace of mind you need to combine healthy exercise with a sensible approach to not increase the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
Firstly, the HSE guidelines state that: “You can still go outside for walks, runs and cycles on your own. But you should not spend time in close contact with other people.” They add that “You could try to exercise regularly, especially walking – you can do this even if you need to self quarantine.”
So, bearing these statements in mind, then you could follow these steps to ensure you limit the risks involved.
Walking alone is definitely the safer option. You’ll have to make the decision whether to walk with family members or friends based on your daily interactions and general proximity at home, but if you walk together, there will be some risks involved. When walking with children it would be a good idea to remind them in language they understand that there are rules for them to remember when out walking that might be different to your usual walks.
Maintain a safe distance between you and other walkers. It’s recommended that you stay a minimum of 2 metres away from others.
Don’t walk as part of a group. Note that currently all group walking activities involving the Sligo Walking Club and other groups have been postponed and if you are part of a walking club, you should consider making the same decision. The more interaction between people the more likely this disease will pass from one person to another so walking as part of a group is discouraged.
Avoid stopping to speak with other walkers, but if you do so, maintain a safe distance between you and them. Under no circumstances should you shake hands with others.
Keep your dog on a leash. This is always a good policy, but is even more important now as a dog may wander towards other walkers when not on a lead, bringing you and others into unnecessary contact. Also stroking of your pet by others must be considered a risk.
Carry a container of hand sanitizer in the car and use this before and after your walk. Wash your hands with soap and hot water if this facility is available.
You’ll be the best judge of the level, distance and grade of walks you undertake. But bearing in mind that the likelihood is that many of us may come into contact with the virus at some stage, then it is worth considering whether we should be doing anything too strenuous. That’s a call for us as individuals, but a brisk walk of reasonable length, depending on your level of fitness, might be the better option rather than a long trek. Consider 30 minutes of walking every day as a recommended goal.
We hope that the Covid-19 outbreak won’t curtail our ability to maintain some kind of balanced healthy lifestyle and there are many places where we can walk in Sligo which may not even require a car trip to get to. You should consider taking a daily walk to get into the routine of getting out and about and choose a number of local routes for variety. You could time your walk so that you are less likely to meet too many other walkers, so early or late in the day might be worth considering.
It’s evident already that many people are walking to maintain good health, and if we all take steps to ensure we can do so in a safe environment, then this could be a crucial outlet for us to get through the challenging times that lie ahead.
Regular exercise is a way to deal with increased levels of stress, something we are likely to have to deal with as this situation unfolds. According to medics, maintaining or improving your levels of fitness can lower the risk of viral infection. Low impact physical activities like walking are helpful for people of all ages to maintain good health and a positive attitude. So encourage your family, friends and neighbours to find ways of keeping active, whether this is at home or in the community. While we need to take precautions against contracting or spreading Covid-19, it’s so important for us all to remain physically active and mentally positive for the difficult times we face.
And if there ever was a better reason to value our surroundings, let’s get out and enjoy the beautiful county we live in. Activity on the SligoWalks.ie website may become more sporadic as this situation develops, but we’ll keep you in tune with any walking news as it reaches us in the coming weeks and months. Stay well.