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Safety Tips for Outdoor Group Exercise

Optimize safety when leading classes outside.

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Outdoor training

Exercise is one of the most beneficial ways to boost health and strengthen the immune system. During the pandemic, many fitness professionals are taking training outside—even in the winter, in some areas of the country—as a way to promote health and safety and to increase consumer confidence. The following tips, offered by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, will help you plan appropriately:

Distancing. Through- out the training session, each person should have enough space to remain at least 6 feet apart from persons living in different households.

Time. Sessions should not last more than 2 hours and should be scheduled at least 20 minutes apart to allow instructors to sanitize high-touch areas, wash hands, and/or replace any items or clothing that may have come in contact with participants or equipment.

Equipment. Participants should bring their own equipment. If that is not possible, shared equipment must be sanitized between uses.

Masks. Face masks should be worn unless an individual has a written medical exemption from a healthcare provider.

Singing and/or shouting. Loud vocalizations are discouraged, as they increase the risk of viral spread even when wearing a mask.

Greetings. Fitness pros should establish a safe greeting protocol—an elbow bump, a foot “shake” or hand signals.

No participation if sick. If people are currently sick or showing symptoms of fever, chills, cough, shaking, shivering, sore throat, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, unusual weakness or fatigue, muscle pains, headache, or runny or congested nose, they should not participate. The same applies for people who have had COVID-19 within the past 10 days or have been in close contact with someone who has had the virus within the past 14 days.

Notification. Instructors should maintain lists of staff and participants for up to 3 weeks in case someone in a session is diagnosed with COVID-19 and it is necessary to notify people for contact tracing.

To read the San Francisco Department of Public Health tip sheet, go to bit.ly/3jOZbaV.

See also: No-Equipment Outdoor Workouts


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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