Walkers and bikers enjoy Santa Barbara’s waterfront this week.
Walkers, runners and bicyclists enjoy Santa Barbara’s waterfront this week. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Events are being postponed and canceled left and right because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and many businesses have temporarily closed their doors.

The good news is that outdoor activities and exercise, a proven mood-booster, should be safe if you maintain social distancing.

“As long as you practice social distancing, we encourage you to continue your outdoor activities such as walks, runs and yardwork, to the extent your health allows it,” the California Department of Public Health said of older adults and people who are at high risk for serious illness.

Public health officials have emphasized the need to keep a 6-foot distance between people and anyone who is sneezing or coughing.

“With the report of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in our community, stress may rise for many,” said Suzanne Grimmesey, chief of quality care and strategy for Santa Barbara County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness. “Fear and anxiety about this disease can be overwhelming and create strong reactions.

“Finding ways to cope with this stress is critical to our emotional health and strength as individuals and as a community. As we have much experience as a community, we must once again learn how to do things differently.” 

Nine confirmed cases of novel coronavirus have been reported in Santa Barbara County.

Grimmesey pointed out that research shows that a 90-minute walk in nature boosts cognitive functioning and reduces anxiety.

“While there are many strategies for self-care, an incredibly important one is taking care of our bodies, which directly impacts our emotional well-being — eat healthy, breathe deeply, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly,” she said. “There are many safe options to get exercise.”  

More Mesa Goleta

Outdoor activities, such as a walk or run through More Mesa in Goleta, are open to the public, as many gyms have closed and events have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Grimmesey suggested a run, a hike, a bike ride, a long walk and a swim if people take exercising safety precautions, including social distancing.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week directed that all gyms and health clubs close their doors for the time being. The cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara have ordered gyms and nonessential businesses to shut down.

Several indoor recreation centers and local gyms, including the YMCA and 24 Hour Fitness, closed their doors to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Exercising in a workout class or gym can pose a risk of spreading coronavirus, according to health officials.

“Working out at the gym is also a great way to de-stress, although this option should be given consideration as gyms are often crowded places where many of the surfaces, from free weights to treadmill controls, are being touched a lot,” Grimmesey said. “Medical experts say gyms are a great place to get exercise, but also a place where something like the coronavirus can spread.”

Many fitness studios and personal trainers are offering online workouts via YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms. 

Some studios began streaming classes, and free fitness apps also are available.

An alternate option is a whole-body workout in-home, Grimmesey said. Basic exercises — planks, push-ups, squats, leg lifts, bicycles and burpees — get the heart rate up and are great for building strength, she said.  

“There is no question that avoiding the gym and exercising outdoors or at home would greatly reduce a chance at contracting the virus,” Grimmesey said. “For those that are choosing to continue gym visits, limit physical touch and be sure to wash hands properly upon arrival and when leaving.  

“For those who are selecting options of home workouts or getting exercise outdoors — enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the view of rainbows or snow on our mountains. Take in the beauty around us and know that you are not in this alone. We are all in this together, and with that, are growing stronger by the day.”

To read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tips for managing anxiety and stress during the coronavirus outbreak, click here.

Which parks are closed or open? 

Santa Barbara County has closed overnight camping at Jalama Beach County Park and Cachuma Lake, but both parks are open for day use. The campground closure will be in effect from Friday until April 2, according to the county’s website.

Reservations with check-in dates between Friday through April 2 will automatically be canceled and issued full refunds.

Click here for more information about camping reservations in the county and additional measures recommended by public health authorities.

This week, the California State Park system closed all campgrounds because of COVID-19. Noncampground outdoor areas — including beaches and trails — remain open in the parks.

Restrooms are open, and visitors are advised to take their own soap for hand-washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer for places where water is not available. 

Last week, state parks temporarily suspended guided tours and large events, and temporarily closed facilities, including visitor centers and museums.

In Santa Barbara, Recreation and Parks Department officials closed facilities and canceled programs through April 6. Los Baños del Mar swimming pool, the Carrillo Recreation Center and Carrillo Gym are closed. All outdoor organized sports, spring break camps and beach volleyball classes are canceled.

Santa Barbara parks and restrooms will remain open during normal park hours from sunrise to one half-hour after sunset. 

The Westside Neighborhood Center, the Franklin Neighborhood Center, the Louise Lowry Davis Center and Parque de los Niños are open for food distribution and pickup meal programs only.

As of Thursday, outdoor activities at the Santa Barbara Golf Club — which follow social distancing guidelines outlined by county public health officials — remain open. 

Private scheduled indoor and outdoor events at the city’s parks and recreation facilities, consistent with Santa Barbara County, state and federal health directives, will be honored, according to the city.

In Goleta, Stow Grove Park reservations are canceled with no new reservations through April 30.

The Goleta City Council this week approved a resolution that prohibits access to play structures and exercise equipment in city parks.

Guides to Santa Barbara trails and suggestions for other outdoor activities are available online and in the Noozhawk Outdoors section here

Southern California Edison closed the frontcountry Tunnel Road hiking trail between the end of Tunnel Road and the bridge over Mission Creek because of rockfall hazards caused by recent storms

The trail, which is a popular access point for the Jesusita Trail and Inspiration Point, will remain closed until Edison completes repairs, spokeswoman Rondi Guthrie said. 

“SCE had planned to conduct temporary repair work for public safety on the Tunnel Road hiking trail March 18-27,” Guthrie said in a statement. “That work is on hold pending further assessment of the safety conditions following the hazards created by the storms.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.