What is the future of outdoor and recreational sport activities post-COVID-19 ?
Anna GERKE, Associate Professor at Audencia Business School
The global sanitary crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus has led to restrictions in the freedom of movement in almost every affected country (HRW, 2020). Today 185 countries have confirmed cases (JHU, 2020) and many of those countries are under temporary “lockdown”. What this actually means in regard to recreational and outdoor sport activities varies from country to country. While in some countries inhabitants are able and encouraged to exercise outdoors in parks, forests, and on beaches, such as in Germany (Tagesspiegel, 2020b) or in New Zealand (New Zealand Government, 2020b), other countries have closed these natural spaces to the public, leaving the population left with only the streets to exercise- as is the case in France (Francebleu, 2020; Le Monde, 2020).
Factors that influenced such decisions are: the ability to respect physical distancing in natural spaces, restricted use of cars to go to places to exercise, the possibility to supervise and control the respect of physical distancing and the ban of gatherings by police forces, but also the compliance of the population to adhere to safety recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition to existing restrictions of physical distancing and accessibility to natural spaces to exercise, a recent study based on simulations suggests that there is a risk of COVID-19 contamination when exercising outdoors under the current restrictions and regulations of 1,5 to 2 metres distance between individuals (Braddick, 2020).
In some countries debates about exit strategies out of lock down have started with some governments taking explicitly into account various outdoor activities (New Zealand Government, 2020a; Sport NZ, 2020). While European governments focus currently on how to open non-essential businesses, schools, public transport, and churches progressively (Tagesspiegel, 2020a), governments should develop clear strategies and concepts about how the population can safely return to and access public natural spaces for recreation and sports during an extended post-COVID phase. Even though there will not be a “return back to normal”, the mid- to long-term perspective of this crisis begs for real considerations to be made regarding maintaining and enhancing people’s physical and mental health. Which is all the more true in preparation of the crisis’ post-peak, when recreational and outdoor sport can and should play an essential role.
Braddick, I. (2020). Cycling, jogging or walking during pandemic requires stricter social distancing, new simulations show. Retrieved from https://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/social-distancing-exercise-coronavirus-belgian-dutch-research-a4411481.html
Francebleu. (2020). Coronavirus – confinement: l’accès aux plages du littoral atlantique est interdit. Retrieved from https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/societe/coronavirus-les-prefectures-du-littoral-atlantique-ferment-progressivement-l-acces-aux-plages-1584629248
HRW. (2020). Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response#_Toc35446580
JHU. (2020, April 20th 2020). COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineerings (CSSE) at John Hopkins University (JHU). Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
Le Monde. (2020). Coronavirus : les arrêtés se multiplient pour interdire les accès aux plages, parcs, forêts, montagnes…. Retrieved from https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2020/03/20/plages-parcs-forets-montagnes-les-arretes-se-multiplient-pour-interdire-les-acces-aux-espaces-ouverts_6033844_3224.html
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New Zealand Government. (2020b). Unite against COVID-19 – Exercising safely. Retrieved from https://covid19.govt.nz/individuals-and-households/health-and-wellbeing/exercising-safely/
Sport NZ. (2020). Alter level information Retrieved from https://sportnz.cwp.govt.nz/covid-19/alert-level-information/
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