Covid-19: can I go for a walk or run during lockdown?

Ryan Dabbs
·5-min read
 Missing footpaths
Missing footpaths

With England being placed into a national lockdown, people are being told to stay at home once again, amid rising Covid-19 cases that could potentially overwhelm the NHS. 

As schools and businesses close, people of all ages continue to work from home just as regularly as they did last spring. Opportunities to leave the house depend on having a "reasonable excuse", and meeting other people has been restricted in order to curb the risk of spreading the disease. 

Fortunately, exercise outside is still allowed, though there are limitations that should be adhered to when exercising under the current guidance. 

But, with the introduction of another lockdown, many people are wondering: can I drive somewhere to go for a walk? Can I go with other people or do I have to go alone? Can I even leave the house? Below we address those questions.


Can I go for a walk with family or friends in England?

Firstly, the UK government website states that a "reasonable excuse" is required to leave the home, something exercise is determined to be. Thankfully, access to the outside world isn't completely closed off, although there are limitations to this exercise. 

Exercising for the purpose of recreation or leisure isn't allowed, so walking somewhere for a picnic is discouraged. Walking or running, however, is perfectly fine, provided you don't bring a packed lunch with you that you stop to eat. The length of time permitted outside isn't limited, although it should be "minimised", and only "once per day". 

Exercise outdoors can be completed anywhere, with the BMC suggesting that "public outdoor places relevant to climbing and walking include parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public and forests". The distance you travel to reach these places, however, is limited. 

"You should not travel outside your local area", defined as "the village, town, or part of the city where you live”. Travelling for a hike within your area is allowed, provided it's not an extensive distance.

Caution should heeded. Just last week, two women near the Peak District were issued Fixed Penalty Notices of £200 by Derbyshire Police for alleged breaches of lockdown rules, after travelling 5 miles from their homes to a beauty spot. Although they arrived in separate cars, due to being from different households, their hot drinks were "classed as a picnic" and they were subsequently fined by waiting Police officers.

The fines, which have since been rescinded, shows how careful you must be if you are to travel anywhere to enjoy the outdoors. The rules can be enforced if they are broken, so walks in more picturesque settings may, unfortunately, have to wait.

Restrictions on travel also coincide with holidays in both the UK and abroad being prohibited. Venturing to a second home, caravan or campsite that isn't your primary residence, for overnight stays, should be avoided.

Exercise is further limited in regards to who you can interact with. The Government website states that "when on your own, [exercise] with 1 person from another household" is allowed, meaning there should be no more than 2 people exercising together, unless you are all part of the same household. Meeting one friend or a family member outside of your household is allowed, although a 2m social distance should be maintained. 

Trail running and hiking, therefore, are both allowed with one other person when it is within close proximity to both houses. Fishing has also been permitted since the initial announcement, which shouldn't involve overnight or match fishing and should only occur in local areas. Camping is prohibited for the foreseeable future. 

What are the rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The rules on walking in Wales are stricter – but slightly less ambiguous. As the BMC explains, "Exercise can only be carried out directly from your home and done alone or with members of your own household. Driving to a location to exercise, even a short distance, is not allowed by regulations. The only exception to this is for those who need to travel to a suitable location due to a physical or mental health issue as defined by Section 6 of the Equality Act. There are now numerous reports of police forces across Wales enforcing this regulation."

In Scotland, meanwhile, "a maximum of two people from two separate households can meet outdoors for sport or exercise" – though children under 12 don't count towards households/numbers when meeting outside.

You're allowed to travel for exercise, including walking and running, which "starts and finishes at the same place". This can be up to five miles from the boundary of your local authority area – though you obviously still have to follow the rules on meeting other households.

In Northern Ireland, you can exercise by yourself, with the people you live with, within your bubble or (if alone) with one person from another household.

However, you should not travel more than 10 miles from your home to exercise. And if you find there are crowds "which make social distancing difficult", you should find an alternative place to exercise.