There’s understandably been a lot of confusion surrounding the lockdown rules on exercise and sport recently.
With apparent differences emerging between Wales and England, it can be tough to keep up with exactly where you stand when it comes to exercising.
Even those who have read the Welsh Governments guidelines are still a little confused in one or two areas.
Here’s the situation with various sports and exercises.
Running, cycling and walking
In both Wales and England you can now exercise as much as you want, rather than the one hour a day you were restricted to before.
Social distancing rules continue to apply in both countries.
The difference is, people in England can get in the car and travel as far as they want to do exercise while people in Wales can’t.
There’s obvious room for confusion here with the UK Government telling people they can travel as far as they want to do exercise, but the Welsh Government not allowing this.
This means people in England cannot travel to Wales to exercise by, for example, climbing Pen y Fan.
In terms of walking, if you are out walking and bump into someone you know it is fine to have a socially distanced chat, but it is not acceptable to arrange to meet friends or family you do not live with outdoors during your exercise. You must exercise alone or with household members. If you do stop to chat it should be with just one other person as gatherings of more than two people are not permitted. under the rules.
The cycling rules in Wales remain the same as they have been since lockdown (except you can do it more than once a day), with cyclists permitted to ride within a reasonable distance of their home.
We understand that “reasonable distance” is as far as you can reasonably walk.
If you were found cycling 20 miles or more from your home and are stopped by police, this would not been seen as a “reasonable distance”.
The rules are:
- People are expected to only cycle alone or with members of their household, on routes they know well, and that are well within their ability level.
- Cyclists on shared paths should be considerate of walkers, runners and other people cycling: they should stay two metres from others, slow their pace and stop to let people pass as appropriate.
- Cycling should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home.
- Exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home.
- Cycling to work, or for work, is a reasonable excuse to be outside (so long as going to work, or doing the work, is itself justifiable).
Driving to exercise
This is one of the key issues that has developed this week.
While England’s rules on driving to exercise are fairly relaxed, and as a result, quite clear, Wales’ are more stringent – which does make them slightly harder to understand.
Under a heading of “Can I drive to do exercise?”, the Welsh Government guidelines state: “In general, exercise should not involve people driving away from home to exercise. No journeys outside your local area should be taken to exercise in the countryside, at the coast or at other beauty spots, for example – many beauty spots have been closed to prevent people gathering.”
However, elsewhere they say: “The regulations state exercise should be done locally, which means people cannot drive to exercise outside their local area.”
Does this wording stop people driving to exercise within their local area if they need to take equipment, such as golf clubs or fishing gear, with them? You can see why things are a bit muddled.
The Welsh Government have previously said “people should not travel a significant distance from their home to exercise” – but there is no set rule or guidance on what “a significant distance” refers to.
The Welsh Government’s website also stated: “People are asked to exercise good judgement and common sense.”
Tennis and golf
You cannot currently play tennis in Wales.
An LTA statement stated: “All tennis facilities and courts should currently remain closed, and tennis coaching and activity should remain on hold.”
As for golf, courses in Wales have been told they can reopen but have been advised to do so no earlier than Monday, May 18.
In Wales, you can only play alone or with a member of your own household.
“Our laws are clear that you must exercise alone or with members of your household,” says the advice on the Welsh Government website. This has since been clarified to be the case when it comes to golf.
In England, however, golfers are allowed to play with one person from a different household.
A number of alterations will be made around the course as per the guidance from the R&A:
- All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed.
- Ball washers and drinking fountains to be covered up.
- Benches and bins to be removed, covered or sign-posted in such a way that players don’t touch them.
- All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions.
Flagsticks will remain in place but golfers will be advised not to touch or remove them from the hole.
The hole will be lined to ensure that the ball does not fall below the level of the green, making it easy to retrieve without touching anything part of the hole or flag.
You can now go fishing in Wales.
First minister Mark Drakeford confirmed angling was allowed on Wednesday in the Plenary meeting, saying: “As far as angling is allowed, it is allowed under our current regulations, the ones that were passed into law on Monday (April 11), but it must be done locally and people must observe social distancing.
“Here in Wales, we are encouraging people to stay home. That is the best way in which we can help one another to overcome this crisis. That’s why we’re all making the sacrifices that we are.
“But people are allowed now to leave their homes more than once a day for exercise, and if your way of taking exercise is to walk from your home to a river and to sit there, not near other people, and to go fishing, then that is allowed within the rules in Wales.
(Image: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans Agency)
“But it must be local and it must be done in a way that observes social distancing.”
As with any other form of exercise, it must be done alone or with another household member.
Angling Cymru also advise people to sanitise hands regularly and avoid dangerous fishing venues or those where you cannot maintain safe distancing.
No boat fishing, overnight fishing or fishing in closed areas of land or property are permitted.
You must also have a valid fishing rod licence, adhere to fisheries byelaws including the close season and have permission from the fishery owner.
As mentioned, issues around the rules on driving have caused some confusion, with police even questioning whether fishing is exercise and conflicting messages being put out by Natural Resources Wales and Angling Cymru.
On Friday night, Angling Cymru’s new advice, which now mirror the NRW’s, states that you should stay close to home, walking or cycling if you can and fish at the nearest venue to your home and not your favourite – with the warning you could be fined or turned away if you leave your local area.
Gyms still seem a fair way off from re-opening and most have frozen membership fees during lockdown.
The Welsh Government say: “Gyms are not reopening yet. For the time being, we continue to advise people to exercise in their own home or outdoors.
“We are lifting the previous restriction on only exercising once a day to enable everyone to exercise more frequently outdoors. But exercise must be local and should start and end at home. People should also only exercise alone or with people from their own household.”
The start of the bathing water season will be delayed until at least 22 June this year to ensure important water sampling takes place in order to maintain Wales’ high bathing water standards for the future.
Natural Resources Wales announced the decision was made with the backing of the Welsh Government following risk assessments that identified several issues that would impact on the process to undertake the water sampling fully.
The delay will mean the bathing season will be postponed until it’s safe for staff to carry out their roles.
The bathing water sampling season usually starts on 15 May and tests all 105 designated bathing waters around Wales on their water quality.
Clare Pillman, CEO of NRW said: “Keeping Wales’ bathing waters clean benefits people, the economy and the amazing wildlife in our coastal waters.
“With the unprecedented circumstances brought on us all because of Coronavirus we’ve unfortunately had to delay our bathing water sampling programme.
“The delay in sampling is not expected to affect water quality around Wales’ coast as the usual pollution prevention measures and permit controls for coastal discharges are still in place.
“NRW is working to produce a bathing water programme for 2020 which would help inform the public on water quality when it is safe to do so.”
How and when will exercise and sport return?
The Welsh government have laid out a traffic light system of how Wales will exit lockdown – which covers a progressive return for exercise and sport.
While there are no timeframes on each step, as progression is based on monitoring hospital admissions and infections data throughout to decide whether to move forward or even back a step, you can see all the steps below.
The text in bold indicates where we currently are now in the process.
Exercise once a day outside of house on own or with household.
Exercise more than once a day and incidental activity locally.
Outdoor sports courts to open.
Elite athletes resume some activity.
Team and individual sports, non-contact sport and games in small groups indoors and outdoors.
Some outdoor events with limited capacity and events behind closed doors for broadcast.
All sports, leisure and cultural activities open, with physical distancing.
All events resume with limited capacity.