The best sports for social distancing

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The UK is a nation of sports lovers. While we may not previously have extended that love to actually taking part in any sports, we like to profess ourselves fans from a safe distance behind the telly. But lockdown, which has made us re-evaluate so many aspects of our lives, is now turning Brits’ attention to fitness. Alas, though, it comes too late, for just when we want to play, the means are cruelly snatched from us – sports games break social distancing. Or do they? Here are five options that are compatible with social distancing if you need that fitness kick. Orange quarters all round.


Cycling has two benefits during lockdown: it’s an easy way to improve your all-round fitness and enjoy some views in the process, and with fewer cars on the road it’s a little safer than usual at the moment too. There are plenty of cheap bikes to be found second hand online, or you could invest in a sportier model. Aiding you to get further from your house in a shorter time, the bike could prove to be our best friend in self-isolation. It’s long past time for the cycling revolution to start.

Long-distance running

Running and jogging are, naturally, the go-to exercise of the quarantined. Use of the fitness app Strava has tripled since lockdown began, as those of us whose usual exercise would be a walk to the Tube station search for easy ways to keep fit. With time on our hands and restrictions on team sports, running is an ideal way to get some fresh air and get the blood pumping. Just make sure you don’t run too close to anyone else – London parks are packed.


Golf is practically made for social distancing. Featuring only two players at once on a vast expanse of land, what once seemed like a waste of precious space now appears a highly forward-thinking attempt to decrease intimacy in sport. With news that clubs are starting to reopen as restrictions loosen – with clubhouses remaining closed and regulations in place to prevent too many shared surfaces being touched – it seems that golfers may be the first sportsmen to return to a semblance of normality when lockdown ends.

Home workouts

Don’t pretend you haven’t tried it. Joe Wicks and friends have become the face of self-isolation (narrowly pinching the dubious honour from Dominic Cummings). With his cheeky demeanour, child-friendly workouts and seemingly boundless energy – even with a broken arm – Wicks has turned the UK into an army of fitness junkies hopping on the spot. For those who relied on the gym for that crucial muscle mass (or for a personality), their eventual reopening will cause a sigh of relief. But others may never go back, now that the wonderful world of the home workout has been opened to them.


I predict that tennis, like golf, will be one of the first sports to return when we go out again. Surely in the best games, we remain not two, but at least four metres from our opponents at all times. Doubles may not be possible for a while yet, but singles can surely meet with no objections from local councils – provided the players approach each other as gingerly as possible. The end-of-match handshake might not be possible any more. But perhaps, given modern tennis’s tendency away from the politesse of yesteryear, that was inevitable anyway. Roll on the new tradition: the end-of-match racket throw.

Malin Hay


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