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Increased numbers of people in parks and on walking tracks

Not enough space outside or not enough common sense?

Being stuck inside the same four walls day in and day out is hardly interesting and makes the scope of the coronavirus pandemic difficult to grasp. For many, the pandemic is being experienced through our TV. But when you step outside for some daily exercise, you are confronted with the effect the virus is having on normality.

All photos by Kaylah Baker

The number of cars on the road remains at a minimum compared to normal, but foot traffic has notably increased over the last month.

Exercise has been deemed an essential activity by the government even during our strictest restriction periods.

Whether you’ve been a fitness fanatic in the past or are just sick of

being indoors, exercising outside can be a great escape.

But have some people been using ‘outdoor exercise’ as a front to simply congregate and socialise in groups?

Apparently so.

Monash University student, Anastasia, says she has struggled to maintain social distancing when taking her dog to the local park due to large groups of people congregating.

“It’s really frustrating to see these people ignoring the rules and getting away with it, jeopardising our progress,” she said, when describing the big number of non-related families who were catching up to play sports and socialise.

Police started patrolling Anastasia’s local parks

due to how congested the outdoor spaces were becoming.

But the question remains, is it really a matter of people abusing the system and choosing to rebel, or do some outdoor spaces simply not provide enough room for everyone during this time?

In a recent press release from AAP Medianet, Australian health and transport experts asked for urgent measures to be taken to “support safe walking and cycling and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Dr Ben Beck from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University described the space given to walkers and cyclists as “inadequate”. Dr Beck, along with over 100 Australian experts, has signed a letter to all State and Territory Transport Ministers, asking for immediate action to be taken.

The outcome of the letter at this stage remains uncertain in some states. But for NSW and Victoria, the State Governments have already announced funding for Councils to ensure extra effort is put into making walking and cycling safer.

After having our freedom restricted throughout our time in isolation, we can only hope we will never take it for granted again when everything returns to normal.

For the moment in Victoria, exercise restrictions have been slightly eased and groups of ten are allowed. But indoor exercise in gyms or stadiums is still off the cards.

Freedom is imperative for us as humans and in a time of uncertainty, getting outside to exercise while we are allowed is highly recommended.

According to Professor Rebecca Ivers, Head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, keeping active is “hugely important for our mental and physical well-being”.

In a time like the present, we simply can’t afford to deprive ourselves of the imperative moments spent outside that help to clear our minds and aid our mental health.

We may nearly be in the clear of the virus, but if we are not adhering to restrictions and find ourselves continuing to bend the rules then the status quo will unfortunately remain.

Simply using the excuse that there is not enough space, despite how accurate it may be, does not override the fact that a call for common sense is also needed.

Hopefully, when the end of this pandemic comes, we will have learnt to be more selfless and realised the importance of looking out for one another.

If the virus can teach us the significance of that, and looking after our own mental and physical health, then hopefully we can be better prepared for whatever arises in the future.


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