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How to safely do outdoor activities during CMCO

Hello everyone! I don’t know about you all but we are grateful that the government has eased the Movement Control Order and implemented the conditional version of it. This allows us to do some outdoor activities provided that we follow the SOP and maintain our physical distance. Our team of experienced outdoor trip leaders, first aid instructors and risk assessors put together this outdoor safety advisory for the CMCO.
What are the benefits of being in the outdoors?
Studies have shown that being in the outdoors has both physical and mental health benefits. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing. It is proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness, lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system, and accelerate recovery from illness.
This has been studied by academicians from Chiba University in Japan, Derby University in England, and the University of Utah in the USA. It has been found that trees and plants emit substances called phytoncides which have been found to boost the immune system. Studies have also shown that Forest Bathing increases the Natural Killer cell activity in people which helps to fight diseases, with at least some of this effect coming from phytoncides.
The best thing is that one doesn’t need to be in a full-fledged forest to gain from these benefits. Even a natural view from a window makes a lot of difference. But if you can, do spend some time in the public parks or areas that are now open.
How to stay safe in the outdoors during the CMCO
  • Keep your distance-sports distance.
We should modify physical distancing based on our level of intensity. We are all familiar with social distancing where it is recommended to stay at least 1 metre between individuals. However, this only applies to social distancing when we are at rest. Dr Pui San Au Yong, a Sports & Exercise Medicine Physician and triathlete has coined the term “sports distancing”. This is the minimum distance to maintain increases as the exercise intensity progresses. She recommends to keep a 6-metre distance when doing low-intensity exercises like walking and a 10-metre distance when jogging or cycling.
To do this, it is important to be observant while you do your outdoor exercise. Politely step aside for folks to pass you, or if you want to pass them, do so where you can give them a wide berth. Consider the places that you are headed to for your outdoor exercise. Are the paths wide enough for you to make detours? Can you aim for a less popular time to be there? Remember your face masks too and avoid touching outdoor exercise equipment.
  • Stay within your abilities

Exercising good judgement has always been a critical outdoor leadership skill and it is even more important during this pandemic. This is not the time to blaze new trails in an unknown area or to set a personal best riding that extreme downhill mountain bike route! Choose activities and durations that are within your skill level. Have some knowledge of the area where you are going, especially evacuation routes. If an area is closed, do not go there. Remember that you are conducting these activities largely on your own, without guides or instructors to provide a safety net.

The whole aim of “flattening the curve” was to not overtax the rescue or health services. If they have to come out to perform a rescue, you are putting them at risk as well as taking valuable resources away from people who are sick.

  • Choose your companions carefully

You don’t want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. If you have to be alone, make sure that a responsible person knows your itinerary and time frame.

CMCO rules allow for groups of no more than 10 people. Ensure that you know how to contact each of the members of your group, for contact tracing purposes. Ensure that you know the fitness and ability level of all your companions. Consider everyone in the team and set a comfortable pace that the weakest member of the group can cope with.

Carry a first aid kit with you and know how to identify and treat injuries and illnesses. Be prepared to deal with minor injuries like cuts and sprains to having the confidence and training to handle major traumas. Learn how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heatstroke and dehydration, and know how to treat them. Good first aid training teaches you how to think in an emergency and gives you enough practise so that the skills are ingrained into your muscle memory.
  • Drink plenty of water
It probably has been a long time since you were outside in the sun, so be extra vigilant about dealing with Malaysia’s hot weather. Dehydration is not just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Take a tip from athletes: drink up before your journey so you are well hydrated and energized. Avoid coffee, sugary drinks, and alcohol which contribute to dehydration. Practise constant sipping rather than waiting till you are feeling thirsty before you drink. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. In the outdoors, try to avoid drinking your total water supply between refills.
  • Have appropriate equipment and clothing
Keep your equipment in good working order. Inspect it before your trip. Do not wait until you are at the trailhead. Be sure to bring drinking water, emergency snacks, first aid kit as well as sun and rain protection. Choose the right clothing for the environment. If it’s very sunny bring a hat and sunblock. Pay attention to having good shoes which you are comfortable in.
  • Pay attention to the weather
Think about the worst possible conditions you may encounter in terms of weather. If you watch the sky, it can give you a heads up on what may be coming, so you can take precautionary measures before the weather changes in your area. If you hear thunder or see lightning, it’s always important to react quickly.
  • Stay calm if you get lost.
Panic is your greatest enemy. Try to remember how you got to your present location. Pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks and try to retrace your steps. Do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, don’t leave it. Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured, or if you are near exhaustion.

The most effective way to prevent mishaps is to adequately prepare for the trip. Some basic outdoor knowledge plus a little common sense can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor excursion. If we exercise good judgement and act responsibly, we can all experience nature’s healing power.

Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Chicago said, “Our research has found that nature is not an amenity — it’s a necessity,”. Even though we have been repeatedly told to Stay At Home to Be Safe, some mental-health professionals have pointed out another perspective: Mother Earth is home too.

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