How You Can Ride Safely Amid Coronavirus Concerns
Looking for a definitive coronavirus answer, we tapped David Nieman, Dr.PH., health professor at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus, and Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, to help answer cyclists’ most frequently asked questions.
Is it safe to ride outside?
Yes—in fact, it’s safer to be outside than inside when it comes to disease transmission. When people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, droplets get onto objects that people touch, and then people touch their face, Nieman explains. The best plan for riding right now is to go out and ride with a healthy buddy or small group and enjoy the outdoors.
Additionally, people might be afraid to ride outside in the colder weather for fear of illness, but that’s not true; there is no data that you will get sick from really any respiratory pathogen when riding in cold weather, Nieman says.
Should you avoid riding in groups?
Your exposure to sick people in that situation should be minimal, as someone who has a fever and a cough won’t feel like going for a ride, Labus says. When in a group, you could protect yourself a bit by spreading out and avoiding unnecessary hand-touching. Don’t share water bottles or snacks. And of course, don’t forget to wash your hands when you get back.
Can you ride outside if you are quarantined?
Getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity can help your immune system keep viruses at bay. During a quarantine, Nieman suggests doing some exercise wherever you are to keep healthy—doing bodyweight exercises or riding on your living room trainer are great ways to do this. Unless you’re sick.
“If you do have flu or coronavirus, or have a fever, sick people think wrongly they can ‘exercise the virus out of the system’ or ‘sweat it out,’ that’s a myth. It’s actually the opposite,” Neiman says.
Should I avoid touching things outside?
The latest data with the novel coronavirus is that it does not last very long on objects outside because of the exposure to sunlight (UV light). In general, objects outside should have little virus on them, Nieman explained. However, there could be a problem if someone coughs into his or her hand immediately before touching something like a traffic button, and then you touch the traffic button after them. If you must touch something, do not touch your face after. Even better? Use a glove, sleeve, or elbow.
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Can coronavirus be spread through sweat?
According to the CDC, transmission of the coronavirus happens between people who are in close contact with one another (1.5m) and through respiratory droplets, produced through a cough or sneeze—not sweat.
Am I contagious if I have no symptoms?
This is one thing we don’t fully understand yet about coronavirus. You are probably contagious right before you begin to show symptoms, but we don’t know for what time period and we don’t know how contagious. It makes sense that you would be more contagious once you are coughing, but we don’t fully understand transmission yet, Labus says.
Social distancing is the answer right now, Nieman says. Experts are still trying to figure out how long the virus lives on objects, and the problem is that it appears to be highly contagious, spread easily by coughing and sneezing, and can be spread by people who don’t think they’re sick. That’s why hand-washing and not touching your face are so important.
Is my immune system weaker post-ride or after a hard workout?
As you deplete your stores of glycogen, your immune system does not function as well as it normally does. That means in the hours following a hard ride or race, if you have been exposed to someone who has been sick with the flu or coronavirus, your body’s defences are down, Neiman says. Additionally, mental or physical stress—caused by exerting yourself on a long ride, in a race, or after a very hard workout—could slightly increase your chances of becoming ill, Labus explains.
“I would caution cyclists to avoid long, intense rides or workouts right now until we get through all this and just to kind of keep things under control,” Nieman says. “Don’t overdo it. Be worried more about health than fitness.”
However, that doesn’t mean you need to quit riding or exercising altogether. There is a very strong connection between regular exercise and a strong immune system in the first place, so the long-term immune system benefits of exercising far outweigh any short-term concerns, Labus says.