Finding Recreation Within Isolation

UM expert suggests fun outdoor activities for coping with COVID-19 crisis

Bikers ride the side trails off of the South Campus Rail Trail in Oxford. Cycling is a great example of an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed while maintaining a safe distance between participants. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Pandemic precautions have closed most public venues, but a University of Mississippi recreation expert says there’s still plenty of outdoor fun for people to enjoy while also remaining safe under the global health guidelines and local municipal regulations.

“This is a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors,” said Shannon Richardson, assistant director of the UM Department of Campus Recreation. “Walking, hiking, disc golfing and mountain biking are all great activities than can be done with minimal contact with others.”

The city of Oxford adopted a “stay-at-home” resolution Sunday (March 22) that requests all citizens stay home except for essential needs. The resolution encourages community members to stay home except to perform essential duties, including “activities related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

Because the COVID-19 virus spreads mainly from person-to-person, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, Richardson recommends giving each person plenty of distance even when exercising outdoors.

“To safely enjoy activities in nature, be sure to maintain at least 6 feet between you and other people and minimize touching surfaces that are frequented by others, including rails, trash receptacles, signs and so forth,” she said.

“Bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go so you can wipe down surfaces you do have to touch. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds after recreating. It is advised to enjoy outdoor activities with someone in your household and to continue to be aware of your surroundings at all times.”

Walking outdoors is a great way to maintain physical fitness and relieve stress while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, pets make great companions while walking, particularly since health officials advise that dogs and cats are unaffected by the virus. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Richardson also recommends forest bathing, an activity that incorporates mindfulness with nature.

The term forest bathing emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called “shinrin-yoku,” which translates as “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The purpose was twofold: to offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.

“For those in Oxford and Lafayette County, Campus Recreation maintains the South Campus Trail, located off Chucky Mullins Drive across from the South Campus Recreation Center,” Richardson said. “The university also has a nice disc golf course and a FitRig outdoor fitness station located at the Outdoor Sports Complex.”

Richardson offered the following safety tips for recreating:

  • Avoid times and places of high use.
  • Absolutely avoid crowded parks, trails and beaches. Social distancing applies in the outdoors just as it does anywhere else.
  • To avoid being part of the creation of large crowds and groups at popular outdoor areas, spread out to less-popular spots and avoid times of highest use, if possible.

Campus Recreation staff have developed a list of recreation resources at

For trail information, visit Information about the disc golf course can be found at

For more tips about safely exploring outside, visit

“Do not travel far and stay close to your home,” Richardson said. “Do some research on your local outdoor spaces.”