Health experts talk getting outside safely at Black Men’s Health Series webinar


Daily file photo by Agnes Lee

Shoppers browse plants at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market. Dr. Omar K Danner said while the CDC has relaxed mask guidelines, individuals should still follow necessary safety protocols and practice discretion.

Delaney Nelson, City Editor

Health, fitness and wellness experts discussed the importance of getting outside safely to promote physical and mental well-being during the pandemic at a Saturday webinar .

Governments around the country are relaxing COVID-19 restrictions following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Morehouse School of Medicine Professor Dr. Omar K Danner, one of the speakers at the event, said individuals should continue to follow safety guidelines and practice discretion when deciding what settings to enter and whether or not to wear a mask. 

“I want to give a quick reminder of why we’re here, and that is because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. 

The virtual webinar was a part of the Paul W. Caine Foundation Black Men’s Health Series, a series of monthly events on the state of the pandemic and its impact on Black and brown communities.

The Parks and Recreation Department is providing outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the summer, including lakefront activities, the local farmers market and open-air performances. Parks and Recreation Director Lawrence Hemingway said he hopes these will encourage people to spend time outside safely, both for their physical and mental health. 

Hemingway said individuals need to follow their own comfort levels, while using common sense and choosing settings where necessary protocols are in place. He said it’s important people keep their circles small until the pandemic is over, while also making time to get outside.

“Apply the knowledge that we have and that we’ve learned and how we’ve operated over the past year,” Hemingway said. “That’s one of those individual decisions that we have to make.”

Wellness strategist Jacquelyn Baston highlighted the impact of exercise on physical health.    The virus is impacting communities differently, which she said canin part be explained by health levels and pre-existing conditions. Physical activity, Baston said, can reduce stress, improve sleep and boost an individual’s immune system, which can help fight COVID-19. 

She encouraged residents to make use of resources from the Parks and Recreation Department.  

Danner, of the Morehouse School of Medicine, said individuals need to be smart about going back to the gym, an environment where complete  safety is not guaranteed. If people aren’t comfortable, Baston said there are many ways to exercise outdoors and from home.

“The greatest gift on this planet is to have bright sun beaming down on you, to have the ability to just breathe oxygen trees plant life to take it all in, to get out of the confines of your house,” Baston said. “I don’t think you should ever limit yourself to what your capabilities are outside.”

Even with the residents getting vaccinated, Danne said the virus is going to keep spreading and infecting people. Prevention is still the most effective strategy in terms of curbing the pandemic, he said, which includes wearing masks and social distancing, regardless of CDC guidelines. He said individuals should optimize their own health to keep disease from progressing to a severe illness if they are infected — which he said vaccines do help with. 

To strengthen one’s immune system, he recommends individuals self-monitor health vitals, consume Vitamin D and other supplements, focus on exercise and get six to eight hours of sleep each night. Zinc supplements, he said, slow viral replication.

Aside from one’s own health, though, Danner said people need to think about their surrounding communities. 

“We have to take precautions,” Danner said. “We are accountable to our brothers, our sisters, our fellow citizens of this big country and this great world. When you basically take chances… you’re putting other people at risk because of your own risky behaviors.”

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Twitter: @delaneygnelson

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