Health Secretary urged to resist banning outdoor exercise

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Health Secretary urged to resist banning outdoor exercise

Cycling UK has today (6 April) written to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock urging him to consider the wider health implications of banning outdoor exercise.

Following media reports over the weekend that a few people had been defying social distancing instructions, Mr Hancock indicated exercise outside the home could be banned altogether.

This would mean people would be prevented from cycling and walking for exercise outside the home.

In a strongly worded letter, the national cycling charity’s Chief Executive, Paul Tuohy said that while understanding Government concerns that some individuals were not obeying social distancing rules, a ban on outdoor exercise could have even wider health implications.

“This is particularly true for people from lower-income groups who may already be facing considerable financial and emotional stresses in their lives, living with children in cramped conditions without outdoor space,” Mr Tuohy said.

“Preventing them from exercising outdoors could have terrible consequences for their physical and mental health, and that of others they live with.”

Cycling UK has been leading the debate on the vital role cycling can play in maintaining the public’s physical and mental health since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, while instructing its members to avoid group riding.

It has also been at the forefront of promoting cycling for key workers so they can avoid public transport, taxis or ride sharing, and has offered NHS frontline workers a period of free membership so they benefit from the charity’s free insurance and legal helpline.

We are also concerned that, if outdoor exercise was banned, this would have knock-on effects on people’s ability to cycle when making journeys to work that cannot be done from home, to obtain food and other essential supplies, and to provide care for others.

Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK Chief Executive 

Mr Tuohy’s letter added: “We are also concerned that, if outdoor exercise was banned, this would have knock-on effects on people’s ability to cycle when making journeys to work that cannot be done from home, to obtain food and other essential supplies, and to provide care for others.

“A person cycling to work, for example in the health service, might look like a person who was cycling for exercise, and may therefore face unjustified harassment, including from the police, who (like everyone else) would find it very difficult to know whether or not someone was cycling for a legitimate purpose.”

“This would further undermine the vital role that cycling is playing in maintaining people’s health and mobility for essential journeys in these extraordinarily difficult times.”

Contact information 

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. A copy of Paul Tuohy’s letter to Matt Hancock MP is attached
  3. Mr Tuohy is available for interview via video conferencing facilities
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