Safe Social Distance Varies by Activity

Most of America is now following shelter-in-place guidelines that limit how much we go out and how much interaction we have. One of the reasons you can leave the house is for exercise and fresh air. We have been sharing tips for exercising in your home and the best exercise apps. But, when we do go outside, we have been told that — for our safety and the safety of those around us — we must follow social distancing advice. The loudest advice is to stay six feet from one another. However, scientists are saying that six feet is not enough, especially for some types of exercise.

Our understanding of the virus is evolving, and the way we react to the illness is shifting. We want to give our customers to have as much information as possible. While the new studies calling for even more distance are frustrating, they are worth heeding.

Prof. Jose Jimenez from the Univ. of Colorado Boulder says that we should stay farther apart both outside and indoors. Prof. Jimenez says that the air from people’s travels farther than six feet. “The best analogy is when someone is smoking tobacco or marijuana,” Jimenez said. “Think about how many times you have walked by people and smelled tobacco or pot smoke that someone else had exhaled. Often, those people were farther away than six feet. If that happens, we are inhaling the contents of someone’s lungs with limited dilution.” His advice is to pretend everyone around you is smoking and to stay away from them. “We want to make sure that we never smell their smoke,” he said. “So, we want to keep larger distances, especially indoors or with light winds, or if they are upwind of us.”

The six-foot rule is frustrating,” said Prof. Richard Corsi of Portland State Univ. “Medical doctors and those in the health sciences repeat it over and over again as if it is gospel... A magic shield does not appear at six feet. If the conditions are right, one can inhale viruses emitted by an infector at distances far greater than six feet.”

In fact, a new study shows that the virus can remain in the air for three hours. Moreover, a sneeze can travel 27 feet!

Simulations suggest that it’s actually safer to be at least 15 feet behind someone walking, 33 feet if you’re running and 66 feet aware from someone else if you’re both biking. The banner above is from the researchers at KU Leuven and TU Eindhoven to show the safest distances. They say it’s much safer to not be in a straight line. Walking next to someone or staggered away from them could prevent you from breathing their air. The study is brand new and hasn’t covered how far away you should be from someone who isn’t exercising but is breathing hard. But, the researchers say that the study isn’t meant to scare us from going outside to get exercise. Instead, they want to promote going out safely.

While this may be true, it’s almost impossible to keep these distances in the supermarket or other places we may have to go by necessity. Prof. Ryan Demmer from the Univ. of Minnesota had some practical advice. “Six feet is better than three, 10 feet is better than six.” If you do your best and cover your face, you are protecting yourself and others from the virus.

Related Posts

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Please check your email to confirm your subscription.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form
By clicking the "Subscribe" button you agree to our newsletter policy