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What Covid Restrictions Mean for Exercise in the Outdoors


From 26th December the government have introduced additional restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and to help manage the pressures on the health and social care system. During this time, the single most important action you should take is to stay at home.

The new restrictions will be in place from 26th December for six weeks (with a review after four weeks) with some tighter restrictions from 26th December to 2nd January 2021.

The following restrictions have been taken from NI Direct and apply to outdoor activity:

From 26th December – 2nd January

  • Stay at home between 8pm to 6am - there can be no outdoor gatherings of any kind. This includes no household mixing in private gardens
  • Outdoor exercise is only permitted on your own or with members of your own household
  • No sporting events at any level, either indoors or outdoors, can be held

From 26th December for 6 Weeks

  • Travel: Avoid all unnecessary travel
  • Outdoor Exercise: Outdoor exercise is only permitted on your own or with members of your own household. Physical activity such as walking, running, cycling, horse riding, or just walking the dog bring many health benefits. You cannot participate in personal one-to-one training sessions or group activities such as running or cycling
  • Gatherings: Up to 15 people can meet outdoors, but you should maintain social distancing by being at least two metres apart, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices. You may not organise, operate or participate in an indoor or outdoor gathering which consists of more than 15 people
  • Outdoor Areas - Outdoor parks, play areas, outdoor areas of properties operated by the National Trust and the outdoor areas of stately homes, historic homes and castles are permitted to remain open
  • Sport: Outdoor sport is not permitted, other than at elite level

Spending time outdoors can significantly improve physical and mental wellbeing. To stay safe outdoors, you should follow the ‘Be Outdoor Smart – Leave No Trace – Love The Place’ guidance by:

  • Planning ahead – check if your destination will be open and what facilities are available
  • Respecting the emergency services – now is not the time to end up in hospital
  • Scaling back your ambitions – choose activities that are within your skills and capabilities
  • Parking with care – careless parking can create a road hazard or block access for Emergency Services, local farmers and residents
  • Avoiding peak times and popular sites to help maintain social distancing
  • Bringing and using hand sanitiser, especially after touching surfaces and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
  • Respecting the wishes of landowners, local communities and other users of the site
  • Keeping at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household or bubble where possible
  • Not leaving your house if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or if you are self-isolating
  • Taking your litter home with you
  • Keeping your dog under control
  • Enjoying nature but not disturbing it
  • Only starting fires in designated BBQ areas, ensuring they will not spread and are cold before you clear them up


For the most up to date status of key outdoor recreation guidelines please visit NI Direct.

For more information, click here.

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