No bars. No restaurants. No crowded places. We’ve all been told what we shouldn’t do during the coronavirus outbreak.

But computer games, watching TV and jigsaw puzzles have only so much appeal. Is there a way to cure cabin fever without catching or spreading something worse?

Yes, says Dr. Benjamin Springgate, chief of community and population medicine at LSU Health New Orleans.

Find ways to enjoy nature. Take a hike. Ride a bike. Go fishing. Have a set of horseshoes in the closet? Set them up in the backyard. Outdoor activities have the added advantage of making us less sedentary.

“Maybe there’s a little bit of a silver lining if we can look for one,” Springgate said. “Taking advantage of the opportunity to get out and do something can be positive."

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Some outdoor venues, such as zoos, are closed to combat the spread of the virus. But available are walking trails, parks and some golf courses, the latter being even more beneficial for those who walk rather than ride in motorized carts. Call first to make sure your destination is open, as that status may change.

“Going for a walk in the park,” Springgate said. “There may be other people in the park, but you don’t have to walk right next to them.”

For family activities, Springgate suggests having a picnic, especially while outdoor temperatures are comfortable. Bring sports equipment to make the outing more fun. Because you’re going to be with your family anyway, you aren’t risking greater exposure to the virus doing something outdoors rather than inside, he said.

If you're visiting a park with playground equipment and bathrooms, wipe them down with disinfecting wipes first and wash your hands and the hands of your children every hour.

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The same goes when renting equipment, such as canoes or golf clubs. Bring hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes and disinfectant sprays. Equipment that has been outside untouched for 24 hours is likely to be safe, but bring extra protection to be on the safe side.

The key, of course, is to avoid crowds, so even though the beach is outdoors, being there with hundreds of people defeats the purpose. 

Although many cold and flu viruses are seasonal and dissipate in warm weather, there is no evidence to indicate whether coronavirus will follow that pattern, Springgate said. Warmer temperatures, however, make the outdoors more pleasant, and that can be more beneficial than being stuck indoors.

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“One of the things in general, health guidelines generally suggest that at all times of year we need to get 150 minutes to 200 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week,” Springgate said. “If we haven’t done that up until now, maybe this is an opportunity to look at the silver lining of these difficult and uncertain times and go out and get a little more exercise, get a little more time outside and enjoy something different that we don’t usually get to enjoy.”

If you have questions about coronavirus, please email our newsroom at online@theadvocate.com.


Email George Morris at gmorris@theadvocate.com.