Getting Exercise Not Simple During Coronavirus Pandemic in NC

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Carolina Public PressWritten by Imari Scarbrough, Carolina Public Press.

Although the new coronavirus pandemic has led gyms to close and group exercise classes to cancel, it is still important to stay active, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Alexa Mieses, an assistant professor with the UNC Department of Family Medicine, suggested avoiding shared equipment, small spaces and groups of people.

Gyms, bike-sharing programs and playgrounds could all fit into those categories.

“It’s really hard to set hard-and-fast rules because the most important thing, and the reason these recommendations are being made, is infection control,” Mieses, who works with an outpatient clinic in Durham and sees inpatients at UNC’s main hospital in Chapel Hill, said.

Many options fading

As of Friday evening, there are no state-mandated beach closures in North Carolina, but some counties and towns have begun implementing changes.

Dare County limited visitors’ access to the county beginning Tuesday, while Ocracoke Island announced that it would limit visitor access beginning on Thursday. Dare’s restrictions also limited visitors’ travel through the county to other popular areas, including Corolla. Currituck and Hyde counties later closed those specific areas of their counties as well, all located along the state’s northeastern Outer Banks.

North Carolina state parks remain open, but while guests can use the trails and restrooms, programs are canceled, and other buildings have been closed.

“All campgrounds and offices at North Carolina State Parks are closed until further notice,” NCParks.gov posted on Tuesday. “Trails and restrooms will remain open during regular day use park hours. Boat ramps and fishing and climbing accesses are also open during regular hours.”

On its website, North Carolina State Parks advised against visiting with a group.

David Lewis, maintenance supervisor at Fort Macon State Park, said the cooler temperatures until recent days helped discourage crowds from the Fort Macon beaches. However, temperatures are now rising and may encourage more people to go outside. Lewis noted that the trails are popular.

Lewis said Fort Macon and other parks will have to wait for state orders to make further changes.

“Raleigh would make that call — we don’t get to make that decision at the park level,” Lewis said. “We’re told to come in.”

Lewis added that the fort remains closed — it was already shuttered due to hurricane damage. Trails, restrooms and beach access remain open.

“We’re just following the guidelines set forth by the governor as closely as possible,” Lewis said. “We want to make sure that everybody stays safe.”

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How to remain active

While hiking trails or going on bike rides may be low risk, Mieses urged caution and keeping a distance from others.

“The beach is a nice, open area, but if dozens of people are congregating there, it’s not safe,” Mieses said.

Mieses recommended that those stuck at home turn to creative and virtual resources to boost their activity.

“Being sedentary over a long period of time is, of course, not healthy,” Mieses said. “We know humans are healthiest when they lead physically active lives. That said, you don’t have to be outside to be active.”

Mieses advised that stretching and walking around a home could help lower the risk of complications from remaining sedentary.

“They can use exercise videos on a free streaming service or on YouTube,” Mieses suggested. “Some people have virtual reality gaming consoles that involve their entire body to play video games. If you’re a parent or family, you can play games, as well. Or just dancing at home can be an activity.”

Mieses advised that those who do venture outside their homes should be aware of potential germs on gas pump handles, doorknobs and more.

“Don’t shake hands with anyone,” Mieses said. “Try not to touch your face, eyes or mouth. If you have access to hand sanitizer, use it on the go, but if you don’t, plain old soap and water will also do the trick.”

Individuals should maintain their current rate of intensity rather than increase it while in isolation, Mieses added.

“Now would not be the time to try something new or adventurous since now is the time to stay home,” Mieses said.

She cautioned each person to check in with medical providers before beginning a new exercise routine.

“The other thing I think that’s important to highlight is that these are very stressful times, understandably, so staying active is not only important for physical but mental health,” Mieses said.

“If you feel like you’re struggling in either of those areas, call your family physician. Despite what’s going on with COVID, we as family doctors are still here to help you with your overall wellness.”

Online resources

Several online resources are available that may help with home workout routines or provide additional tips for healthy exercise:

PlanetFitness provides an app with workouts and a Facebook page with “Home work-ins.”

Orangetheory Fitness provides online workouts.

YMCA 360 offers YouTube workout videos.

Written by Imari Scarbrough, Carolina Public Press.

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