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Exercise, recreation and leisure

Exercise is really important in helping us keep mentally and physically well while we’re staying at home. However, it must be taken in ways that minimise person to person contact. 

Guidance for exercise, recreation and leisure activities

The law says you may leave your house to exercise. There are other restrictions in place which may affect this, such as the closure of certain facilities and the legal requirement to avoid gathering outdoors in groups of more than 10.

Information and guidance on sporting activities and clubs is subject to change and will be amended imminently.

Exercise, recreation and leisure is really important in helping us keep mentally and physically well during these difficult times. It is important that when you exercise, you ensure you minimise person to person contact.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus or been told to self-isolate because you have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you cannot leave your home, for exercise, or any other purpose.

The following guidance applies for general exercise, recreation and leisure activities. 

 Please see the Sports and recreation guidance page for information relating to:

  • Sports clubs
  • Coaches, tutors and instructors
  • Local governing bodies of sport and associations
  • Leisure & recreational activities that involve a group of people participating together

How long can I exercise for or undertake leisure activities?

There are no limits on how long you can exercise. There are also no limits on how long you can spend doing leisure or recreation activities.

What types of exercise or leisure activity can I do?

Any exercise or leisure activity you can do on your own or with other members of your household, except where a facility has been closed because of coronavirus legislation.

You can now gather outdoors with up to 10 people from a different household, as long as social distancing measures are observed.

Do not engage in activities where you have to share or touch equipment that others have touched, outside of your household.

Many facilities and premises remain closed. In particular, enclosed spaces and pitches such as gyms, playgrounds, tennis courts, and footballs pitches should not be used. Sporting associations should continue to work with government to demonstrate, through robust risk assessments, how they aim to operate in a safe manner.

You should always:

  • Keep strict social distancing measures in place – you must remain at a safe distance (2m) from people outside of your household
  • Follow strong hygiene practices at every opportunity – wash your hands when you get home

Things to think about:

  • Taking care about visiting places for exercise that could be crowded e.g. popular beaches, parks
  • Avoiding exercise or activities that might put you in danger. This may put additional pressure on emergency and health services
  • Not using public drinking water fountains
  • Being careful about touching solid surfaces e.g. gates, doors, etc.
  • Washing your hands as soon as you get home, avoid touching your face and take hand sanitiser with you to use while out if possible
  • Only share car rides with people from your household

Can I meet my friend to exercise or carry out a leisure activity?

You may meet a friend to exercise or carry out a leisure activity. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted, however strict social distancing must be observed. 

For sporting activities other considerations will need to be applied, please await updated guidance.

Can I drive to go for exercise, recreation or leisure activities?

Yes, but try to stay away from places that may get busy. You need to keep 2 metres away from other people, so anywhere you go should be quiet and away from others.

For your safety, please ensure if using public footpaths when walking, that you stay on the path, particularly around farmers’ fields. Consider using the less popular glens, hills, plantations and beaches.

The 40mph speed limit is still in place to protect the Hospital and Emergency Services. Each journey should still be considered as to its value and risk.

You may be prosecuted if you break the speed limit.

Can I go to the park?

You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise.

Playgrounds and other communal spaces within parks such as sports pitches or outdoor gyms have been closed to protect everyone’s health.

Can I walk my dog?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must not leave your house, even to walk your dog. You will need to find someone else to do it.

Otherwise, you can take your dog for a walk. Make sure to keep 2 metres away from other people. Keep to areas of public access when walking in the countryside and keep on foot paths with your dog on a lead near farmers’ fields. 

Can I walk someone else’s dog?

You can also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self-isolating with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or being shielded. You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.

Pleasure craft

Pleasure craft owners are permitted to go to sea from daybreak on Saturday 16 May, adhering to the following:

  • Marine Operations Centre must be notified by calling 686628. This line is available 24 hours a day and applies to any type of vessel, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards
  • Vessels must be occupied only by members of the same household, must stay within three miles of shore limit and must not be out for longer than four hours. All sailings must take place during daylight

For clarity see: 

Small aircraft

Small aircraft can be now flown under stringent restrictions for maintenance reasons, reasonable pilot currency reasons, and to enable them to remain airworthy. 

See: General Aviation

The sale of sport and recreational activities stopped in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Education, Sport and Culture is now actively working with businesses that sell sport and recreational activities (for example riding lessons) to operate in such a way that they can re-open. More information will follow.