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'You're not stuck on the couch': Amid COVID-19 concerns, health experts encourage people to exercise while keeping their distance from others

As people practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, experts say you can still enjoy exercise and outdoor activities.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The weather in Portland pushed near 60 degrees Monday. Winter was on its last leg. Normally, that would have signaled a great number of people outdoors, but we’re living in a new normal. More people are focused on social distancing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. But does that mean cutting out all outdoor activity? Experts say not necessarily.

“You're not stuck on the couch at home… you can go hiking,” said Kim Toevs, Communicable Disease Director for the Multnomah County Health Department. “You just can't be coughing within a few feet of someone making them sick.”


Toevs said if you go outside, the key is to maintain 6 feet of social distance from others. Doing so should create a safe buffer if you or someone else is sick.

“If I cough, the little droplets that have virus are going to fall out of the air in this space right here and they're not going to get near you,” explained Toevs. “That's what we mean by social distancing.”  

Keeping that social distance between each other is a lot harder for people trying to exercise in indoor class settings. That's why Jessi Duley, owner of BurnCycle chose to temporarily close her fitness studios.

“So much of what Burncycle is based on is human connection,” said Duley. “It was agonizing but once we decided to close we knew it was the absolute right thing to do.”        

On Monday, Duley streamed a free online class led by four instructors. 622 people tuned in.

“It was so incredible, I swear you could feel the energy,” said Duley.

Duley shared that her mom has a compromised immune system after recently completing chemotherapy. Duley thinks about her and others who are at higher risk for contracting a serious case of the Coronavirus. She hopes everyone else will think beyond themselves, but not necessarily while standing still.  

“Endorphins [from exercise] will improve your mood and your outlook and positivity,” said Duley. “Your ability… to say ‘I'm going to make it, I'm going to be okay.’”

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