Guides, Maps & Toolkits

Advice about walking during COVID 19

Bridgewater Canal #Trafford

Bridgewater Canal, Throstle Nest Bridge cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Dixon - geograph.org.uk/p/5296406 – cropped from original

Kingfisher Trail #Bolton #Bury

Kingfisher Trail cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Dixon - geograph.org.uk/p/1775525 – cropped from original

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The information in this blog was correct and based on up to date guidance as of 05/10/20. Please check https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus for the most up to date information before engaging in any activity.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others outdoors is considered to be low as long as people maintain social distancing.

Although the guidance on this page applies to England, some local restrictions may still apply in your area. Where these restrictions have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply. Please consult the Local restrictions pages, to see if these apply in your area.

Can I still meet people outdoors?

You can now exercise alone, with up to 5 other people from outside your household. Gatherings of more than 6 people indoors or outdoors continue not to be permitted, unless this is essential for work purposes.

Single adult households are now able to form a support bubble with one other household. For the purposes of this guidance, all references to ‘households’ also include their support bubble.

Social distancing guidelines should be followed between people from different households wherever possible. This means a distance of 2m between people from different households, or 1m plus mitigations (such as face coverings or avoiding face-to-face contact) where 2m is not possible.

  • Check in advance if the facilities you want to use have reopened.
  • When exercising in the countryside remember to follow the countryside code and act responsibly.
  • If possible, hand sanitise at intervals if your sport or recreation means you have to touch communal surfaces.
  • Once you are home remember to wash your hands.
  • Try to avoid using shared equipment such as racquets and bats.

If catering facilities are open at the venue (for takeaway items) respect social distancing whilst queuing for food and drink. Do not share food items, cups, plates or eating utensils with anyone else.

If you are symptomatic or living in a household with someone else who has a possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection you should remain at home and you should not have visitors to your household.

If you have been asked to isolate by NHS Test and Trace because you are a contact of a known COVID-19 case, do not exercise outside your own home or garden and do not exercise with others; you can spread the virus to others even if you never get symptoms.

It is important, as more sports and activities restart, that absolutely everyone is able to access these opportunities. This includes disabled people, for whom the health and well-being benefits of activity can be particularly important.

What facilities are open

Outdoor sports courts and other outdoor sporting activities have been permitted to reopen if those responsible for them are ready to do so and they can do so safely, following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

From 4 July outdoor gyms and playgrounds can open, as can clubhouse bars and restaurants (see below for more details). Indoor facilities should be kept closed, apart from toilets and throughways. Outdoor and indoor swimming pools will also remain closed to the public.

Travelling for physical activity

You can travel for physical activity. Ideally use your nearest, local appropriate venue to reduce pressure on transport infrastructure. But you can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance. You shouldn’t travel with someone from outside your household unless you can practise social distancing – for example by cycling. It is not possible to practice effective social distancing in small vehicles.

To help keep yourself and your fellow passengers safe, you should not travel if you: are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms or as a result of being in contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, or sharing a household with somebody with symptoms, or are clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you have been asked to isolate by NHS Test and Trace because you are a contact of a known COVID-19 case, do not exercise outside your own home or garden and do not exercise with others; you can spread the virus to others even if you never get symptoms

See the government’s safer travel guidance for passengers for further information.

Clinically vulnerable people (such as people aged 70 and over)

The advice for clinically vulnerable groups has changed. If you are in this group you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Although you can meet people outdoors and indoors, you should be especially careful and be diligent about social distancing and hand hygiene.

If you are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable you should follow the guidance for those shielding. This has been updated to advise that you can now consider taking safe exercise outdoors and meeting up with one person outside your household, always maintaining social distancing and robust hand and respiratory hygiene.

If you have children with you

You can bring your children with you to exercise. You can exercise with members of your household, and it’s important that children have as many chances to be as active as possible.

But please remember that if you have children with you, you are responsible for supervising them at all times and in line with social distancing guidelines. Children are not always good at hand hygiene; the virus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Therefore pay special attention to children’s hand hygiene.

Using sport facilities

From 13 May, sports Courts including basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and playing spaces like golf courses (public and private) were able to reopen. Other outdoor sports facilities such as angling were also allowed to resume.

All of these activities must only be undertaken alone, with members of your household or, providing you are following social distancing guidelines, with up to but no more than 5 other people from outside your household. From 4 July, 2 households can also meet, provided members of different households can follow social distancing guidelines.

It is important that when facilities reopen, they ensure that disabled people and those with access requirements are able to safely access the sports and activities on offer in line with social distancing guidelines.

Timetable for reopening

For the facilities that are now allowed to open, each venue, including council-owned sports facilities, will make their own decisions about when their facilities are ready to open and can be operated safely. Please check ahead on websites and social media to make sure before you arrive at a facility that it has reopened and what advice they are offering users, for example if there is a booking system.

The government has also published high level guidance for elite athletes and professional sportsmen and women, in order to allow them to resume performance training and competition.

Government is working with National Governing Bodies of sport to determine what additional and specific guidance may be needed in future.

Sharing equipment

It is a decision for facility managers whether or not they hire out equipment.

We would expect them to follow sensible precautions and clean in between users, and to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

Where possible we recommend that you limit sharing of equipment, for example you should use your own tennis racquet, golf club or basketball, but if you do, practise strict hand hygiene.

If you are sharing equipment, including balls, you should wash your hands thoroughly before and after use.

Changing rooms

Indoor facilities, apart from toilets and through-ways should be kept closed. When accessing and leaving toilets you should wipe down areas of contact, wash hands thoroughly and use paper towels where possible and avoid touching any surfaces in transit.

Personal trainers and coaching

Personal training or coaching is permitted if outside and if people are able to follow social distancing guidelines and provided no more than 6 people from different households are gathering.

Under social distancing guidelines parents can take their children to a coaching or training session, as long as the gathering does not exceed 6 people from different households. Any sports coaches or trainers undertaking 1-1 sessions should ensure they are complying with relevant National Governing Body Safeguarding Policies and Procedures and conduct a thorough risk assessment before engaging in any sessions. This should include particular consideration for under 18s and vulnerable adults.

Bars and restaurants

Bars and restaurants, including any food or drink facilities inside a clubhouse can open from 4 July, in accordance with the latest guidance

Toilets and through-ways may be kept open, but guidance on hygiene should be followed.

To stay safe, you must:

  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside
  • wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
  • keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
  • take hand sanitiser with you when you set off in case there are no handwashing facilities

Respect other people and protect the natural environment

Remember your actions can affect people’s lives and livelihoods. Take the time to read signage. Respect the measures that local authorities and site management have put in place to help ensure social distancing.

Before travelling, you should check if facilities, such as car parks, are open to visitors. Do not park on verges or block gates. This restricts access for other vehicles.

When in the countryside, follow the Countryside Code. You can do this by:

  • leaving no trace of your visit and taking all of your litter home
  • not using barbecues as they risk causing wildfires
  • keeping dogs under effective control and on a lead when you are around farm animals – read further guidance for pet owners
  • leaving gates as you find them and following instructions on signs
  • keeping to footpaths and following signs where they suggest alternative routes

Wildlife may have moved into areas where it hasn’t previously been found, including nesting birds. Land managers may have taken action to provide extra protection of wildlife. Be vigilant and comply with these protective measures to ensure you do not disrupt the local wildlife.

In addition, we urge all walkers to:

  • Be sensitive to rural communities if considering travelling further from home to walk.
  • Avoid activities that may result in injury or require emergency services support, especially in remote locations.
  • Be aware that popular locations like National Parks or the coast may be very busy, making social distancing difficult.
  • Plan ahead, as some sites and facilities may be closed or have restrictions.

In many cases, the best option will be to stay local and explore the local area on foot.

Our guidance in light of the latest government advice

It is clear that Coronavirus has not gone away, and we need to continue to help control the virus to save lives. Although there are some changes to government guidance, the lockdown is still in force across the UK and the advice continues to be to stay at home as much as possible. If you or anyone in your household has Coronavirus symptoms, you should continue to self-isolate.

If you are clinically vulnerable (i.e. over 70 or with a listed underlying health condition) you are advised to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.

Walking in your local area achieves a balance. You can stay fit and healthy, and ensure you’re doing your bit by maintaining social distance.

The government is still encouraging people to exercise, and we (obviously) agree. So here are the best reasons and top tips for going for a walk.

Why go for a walk?

Keep fit and healthy

Walking packs more of a punch than most people realise! Good for our hearts, lungs and blood (that’s blood pressure, sugar levels and blood flow) walking is a brilliant, low impact way to get and stay healthy.

Unless you’re self-isolating, you can still head outside and take your daily walk at the moment. Just remember to keep your eye on government advice to ensure you’re doing things safely.

Combat stress and promote good mental health

Evidence shows that a good walk can do wonders for our mental wellbeing. We’ve always said that a good stroll is good for your northern soul, and that’s true now more than ever.

Walking for at least 10 minutes a day is a great way to relieve stress, improve self-esteem and help with anxiety.

During difficult times, knowing how to manage our stress and worries is so important and walking is a fantastic way to help with this!

Get exploring from your doorstep

All this talk of social distancing and reduced contact can feel quite isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. As well as connecting with your loved ones using phone calls and video chats, you can connect with your surroundings too.

Whether you live in a more green and rural part of Greater Manchester or somewhere colourfully urban, once a day you can still go explore in your local area. Check out the routes page on our website to see if there is one close to your home that you can discover.

Use this time to listen to new music, find a new favourite podcast or help the kids stretch their legs. Get some comfy shoes on and feel the wind on your skin

How should I be walking? - Follow government advice

Government advice will continue to evolve as time goes on, but right now we are still being encouraged to stay active within the restrictions, and walking is an easy and accessible way to do this.

30 minutes a day

The government’s Chief Medical Officer recommends 150 minutes of ‘moderate intensity’ exercise a week for adults. That translates to 30 minutes of walking every weekday.

This can be first thing in the morning to prepare for the day ahead, a lunchtime walk as a break from your makeshift office, or an evening walk to wind down.

Finding a rhythm that suits you is important. Don’t worry about distance or pace, just appreciate the time spent on foot!

Can’t go out?

If you are self-isolating and happen to have some outdoor space, walking around your garden might reveal spring-time sights, smells and sounds you’d never even noticed.

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