England Covid FAQs - Step 3

Please be aware that Government guidance is always evolving - if we become aware of any changes we will update here. Please always check that you are insured for any activity you are doing, and make sure you have permission to use any public outdoor spaces.

When working within the guidance below, we would urge everyone to exercise caution and prioritise the safety of themselves, clients and the wider community. Please always maintain social distancing and good hygiene protocols.

Further resources:

Updated 14 May 2021

FAQs for Step 3 from Monday 17 May

Can group exercise classes take place indoors?

At Step 3, organised group training and exercise classes can take place indoors at a gym, leisure facility or community centre.

An organised activity must be formally organised by a qualified instructor, club, national governing body, company or charity and follow sport-specific guidance where appropriate. You can find group exercise guidance from EMD (UK) here. 2m social distancing is required for exercise classes.

These organised activities can take place with any number of participants, as long as they are undertaken in line with Covid-secure guidance and adhere to the capacity and social distancing restrictions for indoor sport facilities - see below.

If the activity is not organised, the limit on group sizes is six people or two households, with social distancing.

What is the general guidance for indoor facilities?

At Step 3, all indoor sports facilities are allowed to open.

The key points of guidance are:

  • Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, including consideration of the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities.

  • Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

  • Make sure everyone is social distancing (2 metres distance, or at least 1m with additional control measures where 2m is not possible). Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your customers can follow.

  • Consider how best to maximise ventilation in your facility. There are different ways of providing ventilation, including mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, natural ventilation which relies on passive flow through openings (doors, windows, vents) or a combination of the two. Open doors, windows and air vents where possible, to improve natural ventilation. You can find more information in the section on ventilation and the HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.

  • The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100 sq ft (9.3 sq m) per person. This includes the net usable indoor facility space available to members to use, including changing rooms (when in use), toilet and washing facilities.

  • Within the maximum capacity for larger facilities, some areas such as studios and weights rooms may need additional limits to ensure that there is adequate ventilation and space for social distancing.

  • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a customer has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should self-isolate and get a test. You can find more information in the section on people who need to self-isolate.

  • Minimise risk in changing rooms and showers. Ensure they are cleaned frequently, and that social distancing can be maintained. Discourage the use of changing rooms wherever possible, including by informing customers that these are areas of increased risk, they should arrive ready to participate and shower at home, and they should minimise time spent inside. You can find more information in the section on changing rooms and showers.

  • Ensure customers can use your facility safely. Inform them of the rules on group sizes (during, as well as before and after, the activity). Minimise sharing of equipment. If equipment is shared, ensure it is cleaned between users. You can find more information in the section on keeping the site clean.

  • Click here for the full Government sport facility guidance and ukactive’s Covid-19 operational guidance.

  • There is also Government guidance here on the use of community facilities.

Can I open my home gym/fitness studio?

Private and home gyms that are classified as business premises can reopen from 12 April, following the same guidance as for indoor sports facilities.

Can I run personal training sessions inside a private home?

From 17 May, indoor gatherings of up to six people or two households can take place, including personal training sessions. Social distancing and hygiene measures should still be maintained.

Do I or my clients need to wear a face covering?

People are not required to wear face coverings while taking part in sport and physical activity, including coaching. Visitors are not required to wear a face covering in sport facilities, however, they should be encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public areas when not engaging in sport and physical activity.

Anyone coaching combat sports should follow their NGB’s combat sport framework action plan, which may specify that you need to wear a face covering. This is to mitigate the closer contact elements of the activity.

Do my clients need to check in using the NHS Track & Trace app?

When running sessions outdoors or indoors, you need to download your own QR code poster and ensure all participants over the age of 16 check-in before taking part in the class. Where participants cannot scan QR codes, you must manually record their attendance in accordance with GDPR regulations, keep details of all class attendees for 21 days and provide all data to NHS Test and Trace if requested. There is more information here.

If you are working in a gym or other facility, they should be displaying a QR code, which you and your clients should scan before your session.

What are the rules for outdoor sport and physical activity?

From 17 May, people can meet outdoors for informal exercise and recreation in groups of up to 30 people.

Organised outdoor sport can take place outdoors in line with the Return to Play guidance issued by the relevant National Governing Body.

An organised activity must be formally organised by a qualified instructor, club, national governing body, company or charity and follow sport-specific guidance where appropriate. You can find group exercise guidance from EMD (UK) here including risk assessments, PAR-Qs, Covid-19 symptom checks, social distancing and hygiene measures.

There is no limit on numbers for organised outdoor activity, but please check with your insurer to make sure you are covered for the activity you are planning, especially for groups of over 30.

Group exercise/training can also take place in private gardens if there is enough space to safely maintain social distancing.

Can outdoor sports facilities open?

Outdoor sports facilities can be used in line with National Governing Body guidance. This includes, but is not limited to, outdoor swimming pools, outdoor gyms, skateparks, tennis and basketball courts, golf courses including adventure golf, and riding schools to enable outdoor sports in compliance with social gathering limits.

How far can I or my clients travel to take part in exercise or sport?

You should minimise travel and avoid making unnecessary journeys (for example, by combining trips where possible), but you can leave your home to exercise and take part in informal and organised sport and physical activity.

Car sharing is permitted in Step 3, but you must follow the guidance for safer travel, which will be updated ahead of Step 3

Can I use my own equipment for outdoor PT sessions?

Where possible you should run sessions without using equipment, or the client/s should provide their own. If you need to provide equipment for a client, you must make sure it is thoroughly sanitised before and after each use.

Can I work with more than one client or group per day?

There is no limit on how many clients or groups you can work with in a day, but you should leave a sensible time gap between sessions to avoid any overlap and unnecessary large gatherings.

Can I use a gazebo or similar structure for outdoor sessions?

You can use a gazebo or canopy, provided it is open on two sides, provides adequate ventilation and does not create an enclosed space.

Can I run training sessions in a private garden?

Yes, personal training and group exercise sessions can take place in private gardens provided there is enough space to maintain social distancing.

What are the rules for combat sports?

Contact combat sports can take place where it’s formally organised and following the relevant NGB guidance. What’s permitted depends on whether it’s for children or adults.

Adults: Organised contact combat sports can take place indoors and outdoors for adults in Phase 1 (padwork only) of the combat sport framework, in line with the relevant NGB guidance.

Children: Organised contact combat sports for children (under 18s) can take place outdoors and indoors in Phase 2 of the combat sport framework, in line with the relevant NGB guidance.

NGBs/sports providers for contact sports have developed action plans in line with the government’s Combat Sport Framework, which takes into account the level of risk of their sport and how they can work to mitigate it to minimise coronavirus transmission risk. See here for more information.

Are there exceptions for children and young people?

Children under 5 are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.

Schools and colleges have the flexibility to decide how physical education, sport and physical activity will be provided while following the measures in their system of controls. Pupils should be kept in consistent groups, with sports equipment thoroughly cleaned between each use by different individual groups.

Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers can offer indoor and outdoor sports provision to all children, where it’s being used for the purposes of supporting their parents to work, seek work, undertake education or training, attend a medical appointment or address a medical need, or to attend a support group; and for other limited purposes. Vulnerable children will be able to access this provision under any circumstance.

Please see the Government guidance on education settings for more detail.

From 12 April, children (anyone under 18 on 31 August 2020) can take part in indoor activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance. This includes in businesses which otherwise cannot open until Step 3, such as ice rinks and trampoline parks.

Indoor sport for children must be formally organised meaning it is organised by a qualified instructor, club, national governing body, company or charity and follow sport-specific guidance where appropriate.

Are there exceptions for people with disabilities?

Up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.

Social distancing should be maintained where possible, but in some circumstances people will need physical assistance to be active. It’s important you discuss this with the person to consider their needs and preferences. 

Any sports coaches or trainers undertaking one-to-one sessions should ensure they’re 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. 

Are there exceptions for elite sports coaching and training?

Elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) - or those on an official elite sports pathway - are exempt from certain restrictions. See here for more information.

Can indoor facilities be used for staff training and educational purposes?

Yes. Professional training that is working towards an external accreditation recognised by a professional body (e.g. a national governing body coaching course) can go ahead, following the Department for Education guidance.


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