Leading doctors, including Dr Sarah Jarvis and Dr Zoe Williams, are keen to share practical advice with people in England to support them getting active safely outside now that lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly. The advice comes as outdoor leisure facilities including tennis courts, golf courses and basketball courts reopen under the new Government Stay Alert guidelines.

Medical experts have welcomed the new guidelines enabling England to get active to provide a much-needed boost to our physical and mental health but have also reminded the public to keep washing their hands and to keep two metres apart from people outside their households to prevent further spread of the virus. Experts have also emphasised the importance of only meeting one other person from outside the household and to stay at home as much as possible when not exercising outside.

The new guidelines which came into effect in England on Wednesday enable people for the first time in nearly two months since the public was told to stay home to:

  • Exercise outside more than once a day, allowing flexibility for parents to enjoy a walk or run alone as well as taking children out to play
  • Visit outdoor sports facilities, including outdoor tennis and basketball courts, as well as golf courses, sailing and angling venues which have been given permission to reopen, however outdoor gyms and equipment remain closed
  • Play some team sports outside (only with people in your household)
  • Meet one person from outside your household (ensuring you remain two metres apart)
  • There are no time restrictions on any of these activities

Exercising outside

Dr Zoe Williams says: ‘The news that people in England can enjoy exercise outside the home more than once a day is great news for the mental and physical health of the country, it gives us all much more flexibility. However, it’s important we all remember to be alert to risk of the virus and take sensible measures to protect those that are vulnerable in our neighbourhoods – it is still around us.  One of the best ways to prevent the spread of infections is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, particularly when returning home from outside. Remember not to touch your face while outside enjoying fresh air this weekend and if you’re meeting someone from outside your household then you must stay two metres apart.  Also remember if you feel unwell or have Coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should stay at home – this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.’

Dr Sarah Jarvis says: ‘We can now meet up with one person outside of our household, and this will be welcomed by people across England as they can finally meet up with loved ones this weekend.  It’s really important to remember to say two metres apart as much as you’d like to hug them, and only meet them outside as scientific evidence reveals the infection rate of the virus is significantly lower outside. But while we enjoy the return of more freedom this weekend, it’s so important we remain alert to the threat of the virus to prevent the spread of infection, keep the R number down and ensure we don’t have a second spike.’

Mental health benefits

Tim Hollingsworth from Sport England says: ‘Being active is vital to both the physical and mental health of our nation, so the change in restrictions earlier this week has been welcome, as has seeing pictures of people out on tennis courts and golf courses as well as running and cycling among other activities.

That said, the need to proceed cautiously in the way we get active is also of utmost importance, and we would urge everyone – including those who are opening outdoor facilities and those taking part – to be certain first that they can do so within government guidance in a safe and controlled manner. Many people and organisations will be desperate to get going again but collectively we have to get this gradual return right.’

This guidance is for people in England only.