Sports, Recreation and Being Active During COVID-19

Last revised on November 3,  2020

The Ontario government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The framework categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.

Ottawa is currently in the Orange-Restrict category.

Please refer to the Ontario government Framework for further details on restrictions for gatherings and specific sectors (restaurant/bars/drink establishments, sports/recreational fitness, meeting/event spaces, retail, personal care services, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, cinemas, and performing arts facilities) under the Orange-Restrict category. Ottawa Public Health is currently working to align our web content and resources with the Framework. 

On this page: 

Being Active During COVID-19

Physical activity and getting fresh air are important for our overall physical and mental wellness. There are ways to be active either at home or outside while keeping physical distance and being COVIDWise.

Our neighbourhood sidewalks, streets, multiuse paths, and dog parks are all available to get outside and get moving. When doing these activities, some ways to stay safe: 

  • Step-aside or pass others quickly and courteously on sidewalks. Passing someone on the sidewalk is not considered a close contact or a significant risk for exposure to COVID-19.
  • Keep 2 metres distance from others;
  • When moving at a fast pace (such as when running or cycling), it is best to stay as far away from others as possible;
  • If you must be behind another runner or cyclist, stay well back and try to stagger yourselves so as to not be directly behind them;
  • Change your route or the time of day that you go out, so that you can follow these guidelines.

Learn more on the guidelines for the use of City parks.

Before going outside, consider the following questions and assess whether you can keep a 2 metre (6 feet) distance from others:

  • Does my home environment (i.e. a tall apartment building with limited elevators or narrow hallways) make it difficult to have space from others?
  • Is my normal walking route crowded right now?
  • Will I be tempted to talk with others and not maintain a 2 metre (6 feet) distance?
  • Will my young children have a hard time keeping a 2 metre (6 feet) distance from others, particularly other children?

Back to top

Who can be active outside? Know your own risks.

For some people, it is okay to go out for a walk, run, or bike-ride. Others may need to stay in their homes for their own safety and/or the safety of the community.

Follow the instructions for your situation below:

 Can I get fresh air in my private property (e.g. backyard, balcony, porch)?Can I go for a walk/run/bike-ride off my private property?
Individuals who have returned from travel outside Canada Yes No
Individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild Yes No
Individuals who are a close contact of a confirmed/suspected case of COVID-19 Yes No

Older adults

Yes

Ottawa Public Health states that the risk of serious illness f​rom COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 years of age. Every individual needs to consider their personal risk factors when making decisions about going out and remember to always be COVIDWise.

Individuals who are immunocompromised (or underlying medical conditions)  Yes

People who have serious underlying medical conditions (such as: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, are immunocompromised) or who are severely obese are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Every individual needs to consider their personal risk factors when making decisions about going out and remember to always be COVIDWise.

All other Ottawa residents (except those listed above) Yes Yes, but only if you can keep 2 metres (6 feet) from others  and you have NO symptoms of COVID19

Always remember to wash your hands when you come back in from outside.

Gyms/Fitness Studios (e.g., yoga, dance, martial arts) are now open

It is important to remember that even with precautions, working out inside with others is still considered a higher risk activity. If you are  at increased risk for COVID-19 illness you will need to assess what level of risk is appropriate for you. You may need to consider other options for being physically active (e.g., being active outdoors). The use of masks is recommended for any exercise within the gym that does not significantly increase your heart rate and breathing. You, the exercising person, will be the best judge of this. It is also recommended that patrons practice physical distancing (2 metres or 6 feet apart) from others at all times

Outdoor and team sports:

Team sports may only be practiced or played within the facility if they do not allow or have been modified to avoid physical contact between players.  This means that if players are “practicing” or “playing” team sports, they must play a modified game to avoid physical contact.

Ideas to stay active at home

If you can’t get outside or don’t have access to a private outdoor space, there are many ways to be active indoors. 

  • Be creative and use what you have at home to keep everyone moving.
  • Access online resources for both live and recorded activities to get you moving at home:

Back to top

COVID-19 Guidance for Return to Sport and Recreation/Fitness Facilities

These guidelines are intended to provide guidance to support facilities and organizers to re-open as safely as possible in the COVID-19 context. 

This guidance is subject to change and will be updated as needed. Current information related to COVID-19 can be found at www.ottawapublichealth.ca/coronavirus.

Refer to Government of Ontario's website for additional information.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) would like to remind all participants (athletes, clients, coaches, staff, officials, parents, spectators) and facility/venue owners, operators and other providers that participating in and offering fitness and recreational sports programs is considered a high-risk activity.

Being physically active, including participating in sports is good for both physical and mental health.  To lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission from sports, OPH recommends the following safety precautions: 

  • Practice your sport outside rather than inside whenever possible. If practicing indoors, ensure you are in a large and well-ventilated space such as an arena, gymnasium, or sports dome.  
  • Consider participating in individual sports – such as running, swimming, or skiing – over team sports. 
  • Try sports where there is more natural spacing, such as tennis, badminton, or mountain biking.   
  • Choose non-contact sports (like ultimate frisbee or dance) over contact sports (like football or soccer), where participants are unable to physically distance from each other.  
  • If participating in multiple sports, try to limit yourself to one sports team/league and choose individual sports as a supplement.
  • When not actively playing (such as when in changing rooms or during breaks), wear a mask, practice physical distancing, avoid any shared water bottles and snacks, and practice regular hand hygiene. 

OPH encourages physical activity but strongly advises participants to consider their own personal circumstances and risk factors including risk for exposure to the COVID-19 virus when making decisions about going out and participating in sports and recreation programs. 

OPH recognizes that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 years of age. In addition to increasing age, people who have serious underlying medical conditions (such as: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, are immunocompromised) or who are severely obese are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. They should take extra precautions and may want to consult with their healthcare provider when considering participating in fitness or sports programs. 

Please follow these recommended precautions and be COVIDWise, to help keep the transmission of COVID-19 under control in our community. 

Guidance for Return to Sport, Recreation and Fitness – Facility/Venue Owners and Operators and Other Providers of Recreation Programs and Fitness Services

General Considerations

Stay informed with the provincial guidance for sport as it may change regionally and impact the restrictions and allowances.

  • This guidance should be used in conjunction with any additional applicable facility or sport/activity specific guidance:   
  • Wherever possible, activities should be re-located to outdoor settings. 
  • It is important to remember that even with precautions, working out inside with others is considered a higher risk activity.  
  • The use of masks is recommended for any exercise that does not significantly increase your heart rate and breathing. The exercising person will be the best judge of this. It is also recommended that patrons always practice physical distancing (2 metres or 6 feet apart) from others. 
  • Consideration should be given on how to appropriately include or accommodate individuals at increased risk for COVID-19, such as older adults, people with a weakened immune system or a chronic health condition. Examples from the Canada COVID-19 Return to Sport Framework include: 
    • Delaying return to sport 
    • Training scheduled at designated ‘lower risk’ times 
    • Maintaining physical distancing 
    • Exclusion of ‘high risk’ athletes or staff from training environment 
  • Communicate to all staff and participants (coaches/staff, instructors, officials, participants, and their guardians, volunteers) about the risk of COVID-19 and practices to mitigate risks
  • Communication platforms could include online registration forms, rental contracts, automated telephone switchboards, etc. 
  • Encourage clients to visit www.ottawapublichealth.ca/coronavirus for more information. 
  • Discourage cheering, chanting, singing and yelling at all sport, fitness and recreational events. These activities present a high risk of spreading droplets. 

Notice of Risk

Public health measures taken by participants, organizers and operators for recreational and sporting activities are part of Ontario’s collective approach to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.  The risk of transmission in any setting will increase when physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene practices are not followed.  It is important to note that , there is no such thing as zero risk.  Activities such as sports and physical activity are higher risk. Additionally, although measures can be taken to ensure participation in sport is as safe as possible, participating athletes, spectators, coaches, and staff will still be at risk for exposure to COVID-19 while participating.  

It is recommended to include some form of consent waiver as part of the enrolment process for any sport or activity. Individuals should be advised of the risks involved with participation prior to their engagement in the activity.  

Screening

  • Any person participating in a sport or activity – including staff, volunteers, and participants – should be directed to perform a COVID-19 Self-Assessment prior to arrival. 
  • The owner/operator, or another person appointed for that purpose, should be present and checking to  ensure that all staff, volunteers and participants adhere to protocols and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entry, facility and venue owners/operators should provide in-person screening or appoint another person for that purpose.    
  • Do not allow employees, volunteers or participants who are unwell to come on site. Anyone with any symptoms of COVID-19 should be advised to go home, self-isolate and contact their primary health provider and/or get tested. 
  • Ensure that all participant information is recorded daily, including: the clients’ full name, contact information, date, their intended activity and areas of facility they will be accessing. This information will assist contact tracing in the event of any COVID-19 cases. Facility operators can work with groups, associations, clubs and coaches to facilitate this process.  
  • Post signage at the facility entrance for individuals to self-screen.  

Mandatory Mask Use in Enclosed Public Spaces

Effective October 3, 2020, the Province updated the Ontario Regulation 364/20 that mandates the use of masks in all public indoor settings across Ontario which includes workplaces. Building on the current Ottawa Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law, which requires masks to be worn in all publicly-accessed indoor spaces, the new provincial measures now extends this requirement to all indoor areas including those not accessible to the public, where a two-meter distance from others cannot be maintained at all times.  

Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law: Info for businesses and operators (pdf - 219 KB)

  • Temporary removal of a mask or face covering while in an enclosed public space is allowed when required for an emergency or medical purpose and when: 
    • receiving services that require the removal of the mask or face covering;  
    • actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity, including water-based activities and lifeguarding at indoor pools; or 
    • consuming food or drink.  
  • There are exemptions to this by-law, including, but not limited to, children under two years of age and individuals with medical conditions and disabilities.  Proof is not required from any individuals who are exempt from wearing a mask or face covering. If an individual refuses to wear a mask or face covering and is not exempted, the operator/organization can call 311 for assistance. 
  • At every public entrance to the premises, post prominent and clearly visible signage about the mask requirement.  

Physical Distancing

  • Ensure physical distancing  of at least 2 metres (6 feet) between participants in all facility areas, including the lobby, change rooms, multi-purpose rooms, hallways, and while off the field of play (players’ bench, bleachers, etc.). Physical distancing does not apply to those who are from the same household and/or small consistent social circle.  
  • Traffic flow and physical distancing markers should be visible throughout the facility to promote physical distancing.  
  • Encouraging patrons to arrive prepared and appropriately attired to begin their activity and limit exposure to others in common areas, such as change rooms before or after their activity.  
  • Patrons should be encouraged to wait either in a vehicle or physically distanced outside before their activity. Wearing a mask or face covering is highly recommended for those waiting in line to enter the facility. 
  • Arranging change rooms and washrooms to facilitate physical distancing while in use, including blocking of alternating lockers, showers, sinks, stalls, urinals, and other amenities. 
  • Use a reservation system and stagger booking times of facility amenities (e.g., courts, pools, auxiliary rooms, fieldhouse, ice pads) to create a buffer between sessions.  

Hand Hygiene and Other Public Health Measures

  • Facility operators are required to make at least 60% alcohol-based hand rub available at all entrances and exits as per the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law. Ensure hand sanitizer is out of reach to children. 
  • Encourage staff, and patrons to wash their hands with soap and water or use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. This is the best way to reduce the spread of germs.  
  • Encourage staff, and patrons to wash or sanitize your hands upon entry and exit of the facility or venue.   
  • Encourage staff and patrons to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth (even if they are wearing sport gloves). 
  • Encourage staff and patrons to use  good respiratory etiquette by covering their cough and sneeze with a tissue or coughing and sneezing into their arm, not their hand.  Avoid spitting (or otherwise expelling fluid from mouth) and clearing nasal passages as well. And wash hands or use hand sanitizer after using tissue to cover your sneeze or cough. 
  • Limit or avoid cheering, singing and yelling, as it presents a high risk of spreading droplets.  

Scheduling and Capacity/Gathering Limits

  • Group sizes must not exceed the current government limits on gatherings. Adhere to all Ministry guidelines related to what can reopen in each stage
  • Assuming physical distancing can be maintained; follow the current indoor gathering limits for sports and recreation settings. 
  • People at their place of work, including and crews, do not count towards gathering limits.  
  • To ensure physical distancing, consider reducing capacity in each room, venue, court, pool or ice surface in the facility. 
  • Request that participants arrive no more than 5-10 minutes before their scheduled activity, game, or booking.  
  • Coordinate booking times to avoid crowding and reduce wait times.  
  • Encourage patrons to limit their time spent in the facility and to maintain physical distancing when returning to vehicles or homes.
  • To support cleaning and disinfection efforts, schedules should allow adequate time to thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and spaces (including washrooms, locker and change rooms, gyms, etc.) between each group/booking. 

Testing/Sick Protocol

  • It is important for everyone to be COVIDWise at all times to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • All individuals including athletes, coaching staff and officials, should regularly monitor themselves for symptoms of Covid-19 and complete a Covid-19 self-assessment before attending each game/sport. If they do not pass the self-assessment, are feeling sick (even with mild symptoms), are awaiting test results, or have been advised to self-isolate by Ottawa Public Health, they should be excluded from activities/games, stay home, get tested and self-isolate.  Other staff and participants awaiting the results of those who have been tested may not need to be excluded if they have not been in close contact with the individual in question. 
  • In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands should be cleaned and disinfected twice per day and when visibly dirty. For more information, see Public Health Ontario’s fact sheet on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings and refer to OPH’s cleaning and disinfection checklist.

Staff & Volunteers

  • Assign equipment and supplies to individual staff members/volunteers and avoid any unnecessary sharing. 
  • Provide training and information to staff/volunteers on COVID-19 transmission and prevention.  
  • Provide instruction around proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  • Ensure that all persons working/volunteering at the establishment are familiar with the requirements of Ontario Regulation 364/20 and the Temporary Mandatory Mask by-law.  
  • Be COVIDKind.
  • Ensure staff and volunteers have access to hand washing stations (sink with warm running water, soap and paper towel) or 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Designate a staff person to ensure public health guidelines are followed (e.g., watching for adherence to physical distancing).  
  • The responsible person should not be someone engaged in other critical duties (e.g., referee, lifeguard). 
  • Discourage congregating of staff in common areas (e.g. staff lounge) with signage and, if needed, physical modifications. 

Emergency Response Plan

  • Include an emergency response protocol in your resumption of service plans. 
  • If a participant requires basic first aid, consider having a family member attend to them. If this is not possible, the first aid provider should use appropriate personal protective equipment for the situation (such as a mask or face covering, protective eyewear, face shield and gloves). 

Resumption of Service Plan

  • Sport and recreation organization should develop and share publicly their written plan.   
  • Visit Ottawa Public Health’s Sport & Recreation webpage to access a COVID19 planning template that can be used/adapted. Please note, OPH does not approve plans submitted by sport and recreation association, clubs or groups. OPH is available to respond to specific inquiries as needed. 
COVID-19 Guidance for Return to Play - Participants & Parents

A safer return to sport and recreation will require cooperation from everyone – including participants.  Stay informed with the provincial guidance for sport as it may change regionally and impact the restrictions and allowances. 

Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19

Wear a mask

Ensure physical distancing

  • Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into contact with outside the members or your household and/or small consistent social group. This recommendation applies for participants and spectators.
  • Arrive dressed for the activity to limit the use of lockers and change rooms. 
  • Avoid group celebrations and other customs (e.g. handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, chest bumps) to limit contact with other participants. 
  • Arrive no more than 5-10 minutes before the activity and do not linger in the facility or parking lot after the activity.  
  • Arrange for transportation to and from activities so that only members from the same household are sharing rides. 

Equipment and Personal Items

  • Bring your own equipment and do not share your personal items (e.g. water bottle, towels, etc.).  
    • Label equipment and personal items with your name so they can be easily identified.  
    • Keep your personal items to a minimum and leave them in a designated area (do not pile your bags and equipment with your teammate’s equipment). 
  • Limit the use of shared equipment unless you are engaged in an activity with a participant from the same household or social circle. If equipment is shared (e.g. baseball bat), it should be cleaned and disinfected between uses.   
  • Have cleaning supplies like sanitizing wipes in your activity bag to be able to wipe down equipment or personal equipment.  If you are unable to buy commercial disinfectant, you can make your own homemade disinfectant
  • Clean and disinfect equipment and personal items before and after every activity. Wash clothing with regular laundry detergent after the activity. 
  • Your equipment, including sport gloves, should be visibly clean.   
  • Hands should be cleaned before and after using sporting gloves.  
  • Gloves should be cleaned after each use.  
  • Follow any cleaning and disinfection procedures set out by the facility or organization.
  • If the venue or facility permits spectators, they are encouraged to bring their own chairs (e.g. for an outdoor venue) or bring disinfectant wipes to clean the sitting area.  
COVID-19 Guidance for Return to Play – Sports Organizations

General Guidance

Stay informed with the provincial guidance for sport as it may change regionally and impact the restrictions and allowances.

Sport organizations are recommended to review the Ontario Ministry’s return to play guidance, Ontario Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activitiesand OPH guidance to inform the development of their return to play plans. When there are discrepancies between these guidance documents, strict health and safety measures (e.g. highest level of mitigation possible) are recommended. 

  • Team sports in which body contact between players is either an integral component of the sport or commonly occurs while engaged in the sport (e.g. wrestling, judo, etc.) are not permitted, unless the approach can be modified to prevent prolonged or deliberate physical contact.
  • Sport and recreation organizations (e.g. clubs, associations, leagues, and teams) booking facilities need to work with facility owners and operators to ensure they meet all requirements that are in place for arrival, entry to environment, departure and equipment owned by the facility as per the national framework, p. 6.
  • National Frameworks - Club Risk Assessment and Mitigation Checklist (Appendix B)
  • Those participating in organized activities sanctioned by, or affiliated with, a provincial or national sport organization should refer to and ensure they are also complying with their governing body’s guidelines, assuming they meet or exceed provincial requirements. 

Leagues

  • League sizes must not exceed the current government limits on gatherings. Adhere to all Ministry guidelines related to what can reopen in each stage. 
  • While there is nothing in the provincial regulations that prohibits a participant from registering in multiple leagues, this would be considered a higher risk activity that OPH does not recommend. Individuals must assess their own risk and be aware and that by participating in multiple sports or leagues they are placing themselves at increased risk for contracting COVID and possibly exposing others in their household. The secondary consideration is the impact of any required home isolation that could result from possible exposure through multiple sports leagues and teams.  
  • Participants must also consider their respective sport's governing body requirements, as they may limit participation in more than one league. 
  • Keeping sport, physical activity, and recreation activities local is preferred. Travel to other regions and out of province should be limited.  Any provincial and federal travel restrictions must be followed. 
COVID19 Guidance for Providers of Recreation Programs and Fitness Services

This guidance is applicable for group fitness and recreation programs, personal training and other services. Stay informed with the provincial guidance for sport as it may change regionally and impact the restrictions and allowances.

General Considerations

  • Fitness activities should be held outside and be led by a responsible person [fitness instructor or trainer] who will assume the responsibility to support the adherence to these guidelines. 
  • Although masks are not required during vigorous physical activity according to the Ontario Regulation 364/20 and the Temporary Mandatory Mask by-law, it is recommended that all participants wear masks or face coverings as much as possible prior to and immediately following their physical activity, especially when physical distancing is hard to maintain. 

Scheduling & Capacity

  • The total number of people permitted in gyms or other fitness settings must not exceed the current government limits on gatherings.
  • If additional strategies are needed to manage the number of people at the facility, consider using a booking system for classes and booking workout periods. Request that clients do not arrive more than 5-10 minutes before their scheduled class or booking and coordinate appointment times to avoid crowding and reduce wait times.  
  • Clients should be advised that they must cancel an appointment or booking if they develop symptoms. Communicate your illness policy and facility protocols to clients prior to their appointment.  Consider adjusting your cancellation policy to allow for clients to cancel or reschedule appointments or bookings without penalty should they develop symptoms. 
  • Encourage clients to maintain physical distancing and not loiter in facility after participating in their activity.  
  • To support cleaning and disinfection efforts, scheduling should allow adequate time to thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and spaces (including door handles, handrails, washrooms, locker and change rooms, gyms equipment etc.) between each group/booking. 

Participants

  • To limit the use of locker and change rooms, encourage participants to come prepared in the appropriate attire for the activity they are participating in when possible. 
  • Encourage participants to bring their own equipment to the facility (e.g. mats, blocks). Wherever possible, limit the use of shared equipment unless participants engaged in the same activity are from the same household or social circle. Participant-owned equipment should be visibly clean.  
  • Participants should not share any personal items (e.g., water bottles, towels). 
  • Unless otherwise approved or required, participants should not be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  If a parent or guardian is required to be present, they must practise physical distancing from individuals outside their household or social circle and maintain all other relevant public health measures. 

Personal Training

  • Consider the use of technology for virtual personal training where possible. 
  • Advise both clients and trainers to arrive close to their appointment time, i.e. not more than 5-10 minutes before their booking. Ensure that the waiting area is configured so that people can maintain physical distancing. 
  • Ensure trainers and clients refrain from physical contact and adhere to the 2 metre (6 feet) physical distancing requirement from each other and other clients and trainers during the session. 
  • As much as possible, personal training sessions should be conducted in a manner that supports physical distancing and mask or face coverings should be worn as much as possible. Promote and support the use of verbal cues or technology (e.g. using a tablet to show an instructional video) while coaching. 

Group Classes (land and water)

  • Group classes must not exceed the current government limits on gatherings.
  • Group classes may only be offered if physical distancing measures can be maintained.  
  • Consider holding classes outdoors.  
  • Consider classes which do not require equipment or for which clients can provide their own equipment. 
  • Instructors should be assigned and wear microphones to reduce the need for shouting.  
  • Instructors should direct participants to avoid singing along to music and avoid having them shout back at them.  
  • Consider creating cohorts of classmates by assigning specific times for the same participants to partake in classes. 
  • Mitigate the potential for classmates to gather before and after a class within the facility. 
  • Consider removing seating and rearranging lobby areas 
  • Ensure group fitness classrooms are well ventilated (e.g., open windows if possible).  
  • Fans and air conditioners may result in greater dispersion of droplets. Consider further reducing class sizes to maintain room temperature at manageable levels without the use of fans or air conditioners. 
  • For classes with significant movement (i.e. dance), it is recommended the choreography or class design be altered to limit the need to travel within the room and to maintain physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) between participants.  
  • Assigned spaces are strongly recommended for organized fitness classes (e.g., by marking circles on the floor to designate where each person should exercise or dance). 
  • Consider removing unused equipment from group fitness rooms to create additional space for clients. 
  • For high intensity fitness classes (e.g. spin/cycle class, dance, hot yoga, boot camp), consider the following:   
  • There is no scientific evidence establishing a ‘safe’ distance between participants during indoor high intensity activities.  
    • Both operators and participants should proceed with this type of exercise with caution and should take appropriate measures to reduce risk of exposure and transmission.   
  • Reduce the overall number of participants in classes to ensure that a minimum distance of 3 meters (10 feet) is maintained in all directions of each participant. Increase physical distance or install physical barriers between the instructor and participants.

Weight Rooms

  • Any equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between each use.  
  • Fixed structures that cannot be cleaned and disinfected after each use must not be made available for use by patrons. 
  • Space weight machines at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart.
  • For cardio fitness equipment where high exertion is common (e.g., treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes), consider: 
    •  Greater distances (e.g., 3 metres/10 feet) between machines, 
    •  Blocking off every other piece of equipment, or
    •  Erecting barriers, such as plexiglass or curtains, between machines. 
  • Designate areas for the use of certain equipment (e.g., stretching areas, kettle bell areas) and for movement (e.g., heavy rope, tire flipping zone) to ensure distancing is maintained. 
  • Where spotting is necessary for heavy weightlifting, participants may form small cohorts to limit direct contact with others. Spotters and weightlifters should wear a mask or face covering whenever possible. 

Indoor Tracks

  • Width of track (and lanes) should be considered for physical distancing. Consider limiting the use of every second lane.  
  • It is suggested that runners and walkers travel in the same direction on the track.  
  • Encourage outdoor walking and running wherever possible. 

Tennis, Pickle-ball, Squash and Other Racquet Courts

  • When not playing with household members participants should play within a cohort. 

Drop In, Pick Up Programs

  • When not playing with household members, participants should play within a cohort.
  • Effort should be made by the participant to limit the number of individuals from outside their household. Organizers should provide this recommendation as part of their notice of risk for participation. 
  • Encourage participants to bring their own clean equipment when possible. Where equipment is rented or provided for the program, operators should clean and disinfect frequently and between uses. 

Gymnastics 

  • Any equipment that is rented to, provided to or provided for users of the facility must be cleaned and disinfected between each use.  
  • Fixed structures that cannot be cleaned and disinfected after each use must not be made available for use by participants. 
  • Users should be instructed to thoroughly wash their hands before and after using shared equipment (e.g., beams, rings). 
  • Remove mats and other equipment that is torn or in disrepair, as these items cannot be effectively sanitized.  
  • If gear or equipment rental is permitted, ensure it is cleaned and disinfected after being returned. 

Multi-use Gymnasiums, Fieldhouses and Community Centres

  • If different activities are conducted in the gymnasium setting, cohort groups should be kept separate. Physical barriers (e.g., curtains) are recommended if possible.   
    • Participants of different activities should not mix. 
  • Players should follow marked, one-way traffic patterns when entering and exiting the gymnasium. 
  • Gymnasium floors should be thoroughly cleaned with enhanced frequency. 

Saunas and Steam Rooms

  • Saunas and steam rooms are not permitted to open. 

Tanning Services

  • If the fitness facility offers tanning services, the owner/operator should consult and adhere to the requirements outlined in the personal service settings guidance. 
Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Recreational Facility Operation

Ventilation

  • Facility owners and operators should be aware of the importance of air quality within their centres. Ensure proper ventilation– is available, preferably with fresh air (e.g., by opening windows and doors) whenever possible. Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is associated with increased transmission of respiratory infections. 
  • It is important that Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are properly maintained and operated according to manufacturer’s instructions. When well maintained, HVAC systems may have a complementary role in decreasing transmission in indoor spaces by increasing the rate of air exchange, decreasing recirculation of air, and increasing the use of outdoor air. 
  • Facility owners may wish to consult with an expert in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) for assistance or visiting the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention webpage for further information. 

Signage

Physical Distancing

  • Facilities should develop procedures that allow for uncongested drop off and pick up of participants. (e.g. drive-thru lanes for pick up and drop-off of participants, dedicated entrances and exits for incoming and outgoing sport teams).
  • Common area chairs and tables should be stacked, roped off or removed from the area to promote physical distancing.
  • Consider using a booking system that sets out specified activity durations (e.g. 1-hour workout periods, 90-minute ice times).
  • Staff training should be held online if possible or in small groups with physical distancing measures in place.

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Reduce the number of common surfaces that need to be touched (e.g. propped doors, no-touch waste containers, no-touch towel dispenser, etc.). 
  • Restrict access to non-essential shared equipment (e.g., vending machines, coffee makers, water fountains and bottle filling stations). 
  • Remove unnecessary communal items such as candy, magazines, and complimentary phone chargers. Where disposable water cups are provided, place a garbage receptacle close by for any used cups. 
  • Limit physical contact by using online payment and registration or hands-free check in. If wristbands are required, the operator should use self-applied bracelets and advise patrons to remove them once they arrive home. 
  • Designate employees (custodial staff) to clean and disinfect surfaces at least twice per day or whenever visibly dirty.  
  • Focus on high traffic areas, frequently touched surfaces and objects, and shared equipment (e.g. door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, washrooms, countertops, handrails, computer screens and keyboards). 
  • Use appropriate cleaner and disinfectant as per manufacturer’s instructions (consult the list of acceptable disinfectants). 
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning of gymnasium floors to reduce the risk of transmission from shared objects (e.g., balls) and those who use wheelchairs. 
  • Custodial staff should also monitor washrooms and handwashing sinks to re-stock supplies.  
  • A written cleaning and disinfecting schedule are recommended. Encourage staff to document the date and time a specific area is cleaned. 

Lockers and Changerooms

  • Facilities, with the exception of aquatic facilities, must close locker rooms and change rooms
  • Encourage participants to come dressed for their activity.  
  • Any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities made available to the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. 
  • Set capacity limits on how many people can use locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities made available to the public at the same time to ensure physical distancing. 
  • Remove self-serve and common-use items such as hair dryers, cotton swabs and disposable razors. 
  • Consider not providing towel service to clients. Encourage clients to bring their own towels.  
  • If towel service is still offered, establish policies to ensure all laundry is handled appropriately. Provide clearly marked laundry bins and ensure dirty towels are laundered before next use. Enhanced laundering practices are not required above the usual practices in place. 

Spectators

  • There are no spectators allowed at this time

Food Premises in Sport & Recreation Facilities

  • Restaurants, bars, food trucks and other food or drink establishments may open if they comply with the requirements outlined in the emergency order. Facility operators should consult the OPH Guidance for Reopening Food Establishments to review guidelines and requirements for requirements. 
  • Vending machines should be cleaned frequently, including, touch keypads and other associated high touch surfaces. 

Additional Resources 

Additional Resources

Adapted with permission from Eastern Ontario Health Unit

References

Adapted with permission from Eastern Ontario Health Unit 

Back to top

Resources

Back to top

Frequently Asked Questions

Sport Organizations, Coaches, Athletes and Parents

How do I stay informed of all the changes to guidance and regulations around sports?

The Province of Ontario provides a detailed framework and a regional approach to reopening, with regions that demonstrated readiness based on trends in key public health indicators.  The

Province of Ontario website provides up to date information on the current stage and framework for the Province and any additional measures in place for regions.

Ottawa Public Health Sports, Recreation and Being Active During Covid-19 webpage provides information and resources to help you stay COVIDWise during your activities.

Return to Sport

How can I reduce my risk of transmitting COVID-19 when returning to organized sports?

A return to sport and recreation requires everyone to be COVIDWise  – including participants, athletes, clients, coaches, staff, officials, parents and spectators. Facility operators and sport and recreation organizers (associations, coaches and volunteers) are being asked to create plans and adapt activities to ensure a safer and enjoyable return to sport and recreation for all.

OPH would like to remind participants including facility/venue owners, operators and other providers that participating in and offering fitness and recreational sports programs is considered a high-risk activity.

OPH encourages physical activity but strongly advises participants to consider their own personal circumstances and risk factors including risk for exposure to the COVID-19 virus when making decisions about going out and participating in sports and recreation programs.

Ottawa Public Health recognizes that the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases progressively with age, particularly beyond 50 years of age. In addition to increasing age, people who have serious underlying medical conditions (such as: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, are immunocompromised) are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. They should take extra precautions and may want to consult with their healthcare provider when considering participating in fitness or sports programs.

Please follow these recommended precautions and be COVIDWise, to help keep the transmission of COVID-19 under control in our community.

  • Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet)
  • Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms)
  • Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household
  • Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face. 
What are the best practices to create a safer return to play plan for our organization/sport?

Sports organizations are recommended to be aware of the current guidance and restrictions for their area. 

Additionally, sport organizations are recommended to review the Ontario Ministry’s return to play guidance, Ontario Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activitiesand OPH guidance to inform the development of their return to play plans. When there are discrepancies between these guidance documents, strict health and safety measures (e.g. highest level of mitigation possible) are recommended. 

What can I expect when I return to sporting activities in a facility?

You can expect that there will be COVID signage and visual markers for physical distancing along with additional safety protocols in place including:
  • Screening for COVID-19,
  • Signing in and leaving contact information for contact tracing,
  • Hand sanitizer at entrances and exits,
  • Requirement to wear a mask in all public indoor settings and outdoor areas where physical distancing is difficult and as tolerated during physical activities.

How does the guidance on leagues impact team and individual sports?

Leagues are a way to control gathering limits in relation to sport. The size of league, gathering or capacity limits will be determined for regions and stages of reopening. The regulation will also provide restrictions or allowance for game play.
Can players join more than one league (e.g. 2 hockey leagues, a hockey league and a soccer league, or community sports league and school sports league)?
Yes. However due to the increased risk of COVID-19 exposure associated with participation in multiple sports or leagues, OPH recommends limiting yourself to one sport, team or league as a player, coach, or trainer and choose individual activities as a supplement.
Are coaches, officials and trainers able to work more than one sport or team?
Yes but coaches, officials and trainers are advised to limit their exposure and work within only one league. OPH strongly discourages individuals from coaching/being officials in multiple sports leagues as this increases their potential exposure to COVID-19 and puts other participants and members of their household and social supports at increased risk.
Note: the impacts of any required self-isolation that could result due to a positive COVID-19 test is exponential based on exposure and number of contacts.
How can we minimize sharing of equipment or gear?
  • Bring own equipment if possible, like gloves, balls, and helmets.
  • Limit the use of frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface.
  • Bring your own water to minimize use and touching of drinking fountains.
  • Clean and disinfect shared items between use.
  • Don’t share towels, clothing, or any items used to wipe your face or hands.
  • Launder shared pinnies/vests between uses.
  • Don’t share food, drink containers (e.g., coolers), and utensils.

Health & Safety

What are best practices for athletes to reduce risk and stay safer when participating in team or individual sports?

It is important for athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators to follow OPH’s recommended precautions and be COVIDWise to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • W – Wear a mask or face coveringwhere required, or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • I – Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested promptly if you have COVID-like symptoms).
  • S – Stay two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.
  • E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face. 
  • Regularly monitor for symptoms of COVID-19
  • Perform a COVID-19 self-assessment before attending or participating in any activity.
    • Do NOT participate in any activity if you are feeling sick or directed by the screening tool to stay home/ self-isolate.
  • Expect to complete screening tool upon arrival at the activity or facility.  
  • As an adult if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, you will not be permitted to participate.  You should  visit a COVID-19 Assessment Centre for testing and self isolate until the test results are received.  If you have symptoms, but have not been tested for COVID-19, you should not participate. You should also self-isolate for 14 days from the first day of symptom onset and until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours, and with no fever (without the use of fever reducing medication) (whichever is longer).

Be aware that even when complying with safety recommendations, there is still a risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

Cleaning and Disinfection

What is the best practice for cleaning uniforms and athletic attire?
OPH recommends changing your clothes at the end of practice, once you arrive home. Clean and disinfect all equipment and personal items before and after every activity. Wash your clothing with regular laundry detergent after the activity. Wash all pinnies and vests between uses.
Can athletes within our sport organization share equipment (e.g. back catcher equipment, hockey goalie equipment, pinnie, etc.)?
Yes, as long as equipment which is shared is properly cleaned and disinfected between users. Ensure you wash your hands before and after cleaning the shared equipment. COVID-19 is more commonly spread through droplets but can survive up to 72 hours on certain surfaces.
OPH recommends limiting the use of shared equipment unless you are engaged in an activity with a participant from the same household.
How do we clean shared fitness and sport equipment?

Any equipment that is washable should be washed or disinfected following the manufacturer’s instructions for each item.

  • This includes free weights, weight machines, treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes, classroom areas, balls, rackets, gloves, and other sports gear.
  • The Ontario Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities during COVID-19 further recommends a dedicated worker to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection.
  • When options are available, choose equipment with non-porous, wipeable surfaces so that it can be easily cleaned and disinfected between users.
Is it necessary to fully sanitize all equipment in between athletes or is it enough to have athletes wash hands in between users?
Yes, Fitness and sport equipment should be cleaned and disinfected frequently, including between use by different individuals and at the end of play.
When options are available, choose equipment with non-porous, wipeable surfaces so that it can be easily cleaned and disinfected between users.
Are there other considerations for touch points that are not easily cleaned such as floor mats or trampolines?
Sports equipment that is challenging to clean should be avoided or used with caution.
Regular frequent hand hygiene is required prior to and following use. It is important to note, that hand hygiene does not prevent the equipment from becoming contaminated by exhaled respiratory droplets. Masks should be encouraged as tolerated, during light activity or when not actively engaged in the sport/activity.

When options are available, choose equipment with non-porous, wipeable surfaces which allows easy cleaning and disinfection between users.

Athletes should be encouraged to bring their own equipment. If athletes need to share equipment, they should limit the use of shared equipment to members of the same household or social supports. In addition, athletes should limit participation in shared activities to members of the same household or social supports.

If machinery or equipment are contaminated and cannot be cleaned, ensure they are inaccessible and removed from service. Isolate papers or any soft (porous) surfaces for a minimum of 24 hours before handling. After 24 hours, remove soft materials from the area and clean the hard (non-porous) surfaces per the cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Isolate hard (non-porous) surfaces that cannot be cleaned and disinfected for a minimum of 7 days before handling).

Competition

Are there any restrictions on individual athletes training cohorts and or competition participation?
Individual athletes returning to sport training  are recommended to reduce their risk of transmission by being COVIDWise, following the facility policies, and limiting their contacts by training and competing within local sport cohorts. Keeping sport, physical activity, and recreation activities local is preferred. Travel to other regions in the province and out of province should be limited. Current provincial and federal travel restrictions should be followed.

Mask Wearing

Is mask wearing required by athletes who are waiting to play if the activity is taking place outdoors?
Yes. Ottawa Public Health recommends masks are worn in all situations where physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) is difficult to maintain – indoors and outdoors.  Some outdoor spaces may include, but not limited to, benches, dugouts, and sidelines when physical distancing is not possible. 
Is mask wearing required by officials or coaches while outdoors?
No. Athletes, coaches or officials are not required to wear a mask when engaged actively in play or training and maintaining physical distancing. Masks, protective eyewear, face shield and gloves would be required when responding to a first aid or emergency where a parent or member of household is not present to respond.

Testing / Sick Protocol

If one participant is sick and leaves to get tested for COVID-19, are there additional steps I should be taking around cleaning, and contacting athletes?

Yes. It is important for everyone to be COVIDWise at all times to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. All individuals including athletes, coaching staff and officials, should regularly self-monitor for symptoms of Covid-19 and complete a Covid-19 self-assessment before attending each game/sport. If they are screened out of play via the self-assessment, are feeling sick (even with mild symptoms), are awaiting test results, or have been advised to self-isolate by Ottawa Public Health, they should be excluded from activities/games, stay home, get tested and self-isolate.  

Other staff and participants awaiting the results of those who have been tested may not need to be excluded if they have not been in close contact with the individual in question.

In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice per day and when visibly dirty. For more information, see Public Health Ontario’s fact sheet on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings and refer to OPH’s cleaning and disinfection checklist.
If my child has a mild cough or other mild symptoms, how long do I have to keep him/her home before returning to sport or school/childcare?

You should keep your child home from sports, school or childcare for at least 24 hours from when the symptom started and notify both organizations that your child is ill with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19. Your child’s household contacts (for example siblings, parents/guardians) must also isolate at home while monitoring their child’s symptom. If the symptom is improving and the child does not have a fever during the first 24 hours, without fever-reducing medication, the child may return to school/childcare/sports when they feel well enough to do so. If symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea, then the child has to have had no diarrhea or vomiting for 48 hours before returning to school/childcare/sports. A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return. Household contacts who are symptom-free can also end their self-isolation.

If the symptom persists or worsens or if your child develops an additional symptom(s), your child should either i) go to a COVID-19 assessment centre or care clinic to get tested as soon as possible or ii) contact your child’s health care provider for further advice, assessment, or other treatment. Your child may return to school/childcare/sports when either:

  • A negative test result is received AND 24 hours have passed after symptoms have resolved. (If symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea, the child has to have had no diarrhea or vomiting for 48 hours before returning to school/childcare. Household contacts who are symptom-free can end their self-isolation when the negative result is received.
  • A physician or nurse practitioner concludes the symptoms are not from COVID-19 and provides an alternative diagnosis AND 24 hours have passed after symptoms have resolved. If symptoms include vomiting or diarrhea, the child has to have had no diarrhea or vomiting for 48 hours before returning to school/childcare. Household contacts who are symptom-free can end their self-isolation when the alternative diagnosis by a physician or nurse practitioner is received.

For more information contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or refer to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and Care Clinics Webpage.

 Back to top 

Contact Us