Illustration: Maria Chimishkyan

Test Gym

This Is the Exercise Your Body Needs During the Coronavirus Outbreak

How to stay safe and ensure that your workout boosts, rather than suppresses, your immune system

Published in
6 min readMar 20, 2020


YYesterday afternoon, I went cross-country skiing in the woods near my house in Colorado. It was exactly what my mind and body needed — a break from the nonstop coronavirus news alerts and anxiety cycle.

My impulse to take part in some outdoor exercise was a good one, says Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician, visiting professor of public health at George Washington University, and former Baltimore city health commissioner. For people who are healthy and symptom-free, “This is a time when we should be taking advantage of the outdoors.”

As we avoid congregating and going to places where we’ll encounter other people, it’s easy to start feeling cooped up. Exercising outdoors is a great way to let off your pent-up energy — as long as you take some precautions: first, to avoid contact with others. And second, to adjust your workout routine to ensure that it boosts, rather than suppresses, your immune system.

“Our data show that physically active people have a 40-50% reduction in the number of days they’re ill with acute respiratory infections.”

How to exercise safely outdoors

You can exercise outside while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Even under California’s “shelter-in-place” order, going outside for a walk or exercise is allowed, as long as you keep six feet apart from other people.

No matter where you live, whether walking, running, or cycling, if you come upon another person on your path, move away to maintain a distance of at least six feet as you pass. Avoid touching things like jungle gyms, parcourse equipment, or gates that could have come into contact with someone carrying the novel coronavirus.

You should definitely avoid group activities, but it’s okay to go biking, running, or hiking with another person if you prevent all physical contact and maintain that six feet of distance from one another the entire…



Christie Aschwanden

Author of GOOD TO GO: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery (Norton, 2019). Twitter: @CragCrest