Be active and social -- but be smart

Be active and social -- but be smart

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Human beings are social animals. Despite the proliferation of social media in our society, human beings still crave actual “face time” -- one of the reasons many of us may be having such difficulty with social distancing.

Take heart -- you can still be social in person; you just have to do it right.

Dr. Bob Rauner, a local family physician with a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University, is a community health advocate. He serves as the chief medical officer for One Health Nebraska and president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln.

Rauner is also a data guy. For the past 10 years, he has been analyzing fitness and obesity trends in the school system, racial and economic disparities in child and maternal health and, more broadly, the impact of poverty on community health, contributing to the Place Matters maps created by the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln.

It is no surprise, then, that he has been studying and analyzing the spread of the coronavirus, along with its short-term and potential long-term impacts, on Lincoln and the rest of Nebraska. He has created a series of informational YouTube videos that have now racked up tens of thousands of views within just the last few weeks.

Rauner provides a science-based local perspective that separates medical fact from politics and reality from wishful thinking. He also points out all the things Lincoln has done right so far that we need to keep doing if we want to avoid what’s happening now in Grand Island and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (You can find Rauner’s whole video series at healthylincoln.org.)

Of the 6-foot distancing required to slow the spread of the virus, Rauner says calling it social distancing may be one of the reasons some are reacting badly to or ignoring the advice altogether because it implies isolation. A better way to view it, is physical distancing. Being with others and being active is a good thing, he says, you just need to be smart about it.

So what’s smart, and what isn’t?

It’s more important than ever to stay physically active – and you can enjoy it with others if you do it right. Exercise has numerous health benefits, including strengthening your immune system. Going for walks or bike rides with friends and family is great, but if you’re not members of the same household, just separate yourselves by the recommended 6 feet.

Pretty much any physical activity or exercise outside works if you can maintain a safe distance and not touch the same materials. The virus is spread through droplets produced by coughs or mouth-to-hand contact. That means playing contact sports or any sport where you’re touching the same equipment (basketballs, volleyballs, etc.) as someone outside your household is a big no.

Keeping kids active is very important, but avoid the temptation to have outside playdates with friends where they play close to each other, especially with the same toys and games. For a list of fun and healthy resources to keep your kids engaged, active, and entertained, visit the home page of healthylincoln.org and click on the link under “Keeping Kids Active at Home with a Big Side of Fun."

Gathering with friends or family is fine – if you’re smart about it. Again, outdoors is best. Driveway gatherings that include those outside your household just require a bit of planning and forethought.

A little masking tape on the concrete to mark off a 6-foot distance lets friends and family outside your household gather safely at your home. Have your visitors bring their own folding chairs and or even takeout food, and you can still enjoy time together. Avoid gathering in public places unless you can clean all surfaces you come into contact with using disinfectant wipes and wear a mask.

If we’re all smart, we can be together during this time, just a little further apart than we’re used to.

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