On the evening of Monday 23 March, in what seemed like a response to the apparent lack of respect for the social distancing guidance we were given the previous week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took over prime time television to announce that the nation was now under some very strict rules in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
While the PM didn’t call it a lock down, we all know that we are indeed now in one. We haven’t quite had all our freedom taken away, but I understand this is the most significant reduction in social freedom in living memory. The message that this is an incredibly serious situation could not be clearer. And we should take notice.
As I’m sure you will be aware, we have been asked to stay at home, leaving only for a very small number of reasons. We have to avoid going to a place of work if at all possible and cannot have any in-person social contact at all with people we don’t live with. Social gatherings of more than two people are banned (unless you are with members of your household), shops and restaurants are closed, places like takeaways and vehicle servicing garages are increasingly closing, and travel around the UK is not permitted unless it is on the essential list.
Thankfully, and I really am thankful, we are still allowed outside in certain circumstances. Within his statement, the Prime Minister repeated the very important message that spending some time outside for exercise is hugely important for our physical and mental wellbeing, and therefore one of the reasons we are allowed to leave our house is to go outside for one form of exercise per day.
One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
This means that we can still get time outside every day, and as I said in my previous post about social distancing, we absolutely should be doing that. I urge you to make the most of this – that time outside is incredibly important for so many reasons (read some of them in this post).
One Hour Outside lives on, but within some important guidelines:
- We should only be going outdoors for exercise once per day. Just once. That means if you’re used to a morning walk and an evening run, you will have to choose.
- You must ensure you stay at least two metres away from anyone outside of your household, which means you can go for a run with your partner, but you can’t meet up with a friend for a bike ride for example. In fact, outdoor gatherings are now officially banned (as of 27 March), and the police have powers to ask you to leave.
- We are asked to avoid busy areas such as popular parks (which I suspect will be very busy at lunch times…), and instead walk the path less travelled. I don’t know about your area, but all playgrounds, tennis courts, skate parks and pump tracks have been closed around here to prevent people from congregating.
- You should still minimise your time spent away from your home, which means you should ideally be exercising from and to your own front door rather than travelling anywhere in your car for that purpose. But if you can’t exercise from your front door without coming into contact with others, then driving to a greenspace a little out of the way might be your better option, although you need to decide whether this is completely necessary travel and I would avoid driving to exercise if at all possible.
- We are also being asked to keep exercise to low risk activities – hence the walk (including dog walking), run, cycle examples – so that we do not place any additional pressure on the emergency or healthcare services.
When seeking clarification regarding how long you can go outside for, I found that the general rule seems to be that you can go out for your normal time. Which means that if you are used to going for a walk for an hour each day, then you can continue to do that. If you are used to doing a 30-minute run or cycle ride each day, then that’s all good. I would suggest that pushing yourself to run an ultra marathon, even on flat ground, or going for a full day cycle ride is probably not within the guidelines at this time.
In these unprecedented times when freedoms are being reduced, this small liberty is something I am personally very grateful for. The outdoors has not been closed off to us, but I would suggest that if this was indeed as a response to those who travelled miles to visit beaches and famous mountains over the weekend, and who hit the motorways with their motorhomes and caravans for a holiday, then if we abuse this allowance we will lose it very quickly. Spending time outside is my sanity, it is my antidote to the stress of life, and like many of you, having that taken away would be incredibly hard to deal with. So let’s make the most of it and not push it too far.
I understand key workers heading away from their home for employment can continue to commute on foot or by bicycle, and so if this was part of your daily routine already, you can continue to do so.
The other thing to remember is that those of us fortunate enough to have our own garden can spend as much time in it as we like, as that is considered part of our home. My own small garden is looking much tidier already thanks to spending some time out there over the last few days, and I intend to make the most of it.
Getting outside for One Hour Outside is still possible in these times of reduced freedom, I think I will know the area around my house much better after this is all over. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a life the same way again.
For additional guidance and lots of ideas including access to free Greenspace maps, check out the updates from Ordnance Survey’s GetOutside campaign. Please remember to get your health information and advice from official sources such as the Government’s coronavirus website and the NHS – don’t believe everything you read on twitter!