By Catherine Chimley ’23

With social distancing requirements, shelter-in-place orders, and curfews becoming commonplace, it can be hard to maintain mental and physical wellness. Many Davidson students find the solution to this problem in nature. Using a few guidelines, outdoor activity can help you destress and get much-needed exercise in a safe way.

Neighborhood Walks

Walking in your neighborhood is one of the easiest ways to get time outside, with fresh air and a change of scene right beyond your front door. Grab a pet, call a friend, or listen to your favorite playlist while you walk. Florence Cuomo ‘23 picks up garbage on her street during her walk, noting that “This is a great way to get a little walk in, and the world really needs it.” Just make sure you continue to follow social distancing guidelines: keep a distance of six feet between yourself and others, avoid touching your face or the cap of your water bottle during your walk, use gloves and a trash bag if picking up garbage, and be sure to wash your hands once you get back home.

Hiking

Another great way to spend time outdoors is hiking on trails or in parks. A quick break to experience the sights and sounds of nature can help to reduce stress and promote physical health. Isabel Morichi ‘23 recommends hiking with members of your household on local trails to limit travel and ensure safety. When hiking, make sure to follow both trail safety and social distancing regulations, and research your local parks before you go to make sure they’re still open. Try to choose less populated trails to minimize contact with others, and don’t take unnecessary risks in order to avoid placing an additional drain on already overworked emergency services.

Running

Running outdoors is important for maintaining physical health, especially now that many workout centers and gyms have closed for safety. Try to use local routes that you know, and avoid heavily trafficked areas to prevent the spread of the virus to others. Consider wearing a bandana, Buff, or other moisture-wicking face covering to cut down on the spread of germs that heavy breathing could transmit to others around you. During most shelter-in-place restrictions, solo outdoor activity is permitted as long as you obey the rules of social distancing, but be sure to check the guidelines for your area before you go outside.

Cycling

If you already have a bike, cycling is an alternative for outdoor exercise. Local trails and biking paths, according to Ian Rolls ’23, help to provide a break from interaction with family or household members and quiet time to think. When cycling, be careful to follow all local regulations, avoid using busy roads, and make sure to wear a helmet to prevent accidents or injury. Try to minimize exposure to others by biking alone and wiping down your bike after your ride. 

Outdoor Time

Even if you’re unable to do physical exercise, spending time outdoors can be beneficial to your health. Without regular exposure to sunlight and fresh air, mental health can become more difficult to maintain, so make an effort to spend a few minutes outside each day. If you have access to an outdoor space, try to eat a meal, take a nap, do some homework, or play a board game while enjoying the natural light and fresh air. Spending time outside at your home can also be used to cheer up your neighbors — write messages or draw pictures on a driveway with chalk or cut out paper hearts for your window. The smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference for caregivers, medical professionals, those at risk, and others dealing with emotional burdens during this time. 

This is a time of uncertainty, stress, and fear that can cause feelings of hopelessness or a lack of motivation for many. Nature is one of the few unlimited and free resources for the maintenance of mental and physical wellness, and outdoor activity can even become a way to aid your community. Above all, whatever makes you feel happy and hopeful is an excellent option to promote your mental wellness, and these tips are meant to provide you with techniques to protect the safety of yourself and others during the activities that you enjoy.