Is it risky to jog in the context of COVID-19?
Covid-19: Jogging presents important risks of contagion
Unsubstantiated (insufficient data)
An article published in April 2020 on the Yahoo news site states that jogging presents significant risks of COVID-19 contagion. That claim remains unsubstantiated to this day.
The article is based on a video from the American company Ansys published on YouTube, which itself bases its modeling on a study of physical distancing measures necessary to prevent contamination by COVID-19.
A non-peer-reviewed study, as yet unpublished in a scientific journal
The article in question is based on modeling which, in turn, is based on a study. The study, conducted by researchers at the universities of Louvain, Belgium, and of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, shows how droplets can be spread when an individual walks, runs or bikes. According to the results of the study and the accompanying laboratory simulations (1 & 2), the risk of contagion by these droplets increases depending on the position of the person behind the first individual. Thus, being in the direct wake of the first individual is riskier than being positioned diagonally, for example. The study concludes that when a person is in the direct wake of another person, a physical distance of 5 meters for a person walking fast (4km/h), 10 meters for a person running fast (14.4km/h), and 20 meters for a person cycling fast (30km/h) must be respected.
However, this study was conducted in a laboratory setting and has not been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. It is therefore difficult to evaluate its conclusions in order to make recommendations to the public. More studies, conducted under real-life conditions, are needed and should be reviewed by the scientific community.
Is jogging dangerous?
Also based on this study, Yahoo News points out that "jogging can be an aggravating factor in the transmission of the virus". There is no scientific basis for this statement. At the moment, there are no studies that clearly confirm the danger of outdoor sporting activities. Moreover, this study is based solely on aerodynamic knowledge and not on virology. It therefore does not consider factors such as viral load, the amount of virus that may be contained in the droplets, which could contaminate individuals.
Comparison between indoor and outdoor sports
Intense sports practice in a confined space such as a gym presents risks of contamination, reveals a South Korean study published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal.
According to the study, the combination of humidity, warm air, in addition to the irregular air flow from physical exercise can create an environment that promotes the spread of droplets. As indicated by the Quebec government in public health guidelines, it is imperative to limit certain access and follow other measures in place to slow the spread in gyms.
The prepublication of another study conducted in Norway shows that practicing indoor sports is still possible as long as the risk of community spread and the number of cases is very low in the city or region where the gym is located. However, the study has not been validated by other researchers, and more studies and evidence are needed to reach definitive conclusions. Pending these conclusions, gym owners and managers can follow WHO recommendations on indoor ventilation.
Outdoors, the risk of virus contamination is reduced because particles from people infected with the virus disperse more quickly with air movement and UV radiation on surfaces. Some people with COVID-19 have no symptoms, so they can spread the disease. For this reason, whether the sport is practiced indoors or outdoors, it is strongly recommended that you use your own equipment and keep the distance recommended by the authorities.
What is the ideal physical distance?
The Yahoo news article states that the conclusions of the study show that the distance of one meter, recommended by the French government to limit the spread of Coronavirus, is "insufficient, especially for joggers".
To date, the physical distance recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19 varies from country to country. In Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, the distance recommended by authorities is 2 metres, in Belgium and the Netherlands it is 1.5 metres, and in France and Norway it is 1 metre. WHO, for its part, recommends a distance of at least 1 meter between individuals to limit the spread of COVID-19. This is therefore a threshold below which one must not fall. For its part, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests a distance of 2 meters. In fact, the idea is to maintain a minimum distance of 1 meter and if impossible, to use other barriers, such as a mask for protection. These recommendations apply whether indoors or outdoors, walking or running.
As noted in a Canadian study funded by WHO, the risk of transmission decreases significantly when a distance of at least one metre is observed. Furthermore, as the CDC points out, when other precautions are added to distance, such as a mask, eye protection, hand and surface washing, and controlling the movement of individuals in confined spaces, the risk of contamination decreases even further.
How can I jog or play sports safely?
Playing sports is good physically and mentally, but as WHO points out, it is best to stay home and seek medical help if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
If you feel fit to engage in sports:
- If you need to confirm a reservation, do so online if possible.
- Gyms may prohibit access to certain areas or machines, so prepare accordingly.
- As mentioned previously, choose gyms that offer outdoor spaces or virtual exercise classes.
- If you cannot exercise outside, it is recommended that you leave doors and windows open to allow air to circulate.
- Keep at least 2 meters between you and other people, on machines, in aisles and common areas.
- If physical distancing is impossible, it is important to put on a mask. If this is not possible during intense activity, it is recommended to do these activities outside.
- Do not shake hands
- Make sure the equipment is disinfected. You can also clean the equipment with disinfecting wipes.
- Use a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol before using any equipment.
- Follow instructions from local health authorities to protect yourself and others
And follow the rules issued by the company, municipality, province, or country where you are.
National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health
Government of Canada
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Food and Drug Administration (United States)
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Government of the United Kingdom
Federal Public Service – Economy (Belgium)
Government of the Netherlands
Government of France
Government of Norway
Government of Quebec
World Health Organization (WHO)
Covid-19: Jogging presents important risks of contagion
August 31, 2020
Learn more about our fact-checking methodology HERE.