COVID-19 and the Affect on Sports and Recreational Activities 

(By Georgia Bradley)

On grey concrete sits a pair of blue running shoes with white details with a white exercise ball with the number 30 on the top in white sitting next to them. Also on the floor is a jump rope with blue/grey handles and a blue packet of protein powder.

Sports Equipment by Fuel LYFE on Unsplash 

Recreational sports and fitness is a popular pastime for many people. Going to the gym for a weekly workout, yoga, pilates was something that people enjoy doing, including myself. With the spread of COVID-19, all gyms and studios were closed during the quarantine and only began to open up this summer in June, under mandatory guidelines1. Many studios have different approaches to opening, such as online classes and sessions outside instead of in the studio. 

The Beginning of the Pandemic 

A large part of people's lives is taking care of their bodies and numerous people choose to do that through exercise. Many people choose to exercise by going to gyms, yoga studios or by joining sports teams. When COVID-19 was first reported by the Chinese Government to the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 31 2019, many people did not think that the unknown virus would affect the rest of the world. Throughout the beginning of 2020, the unknown virus known as COVID-19 began to spread across the globe infecting thousands of people very quickly. On the 11th of March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic.  Around that time, Ontario began placing various restrictions in place to help stop the spread of the virus. One of the first restrictions put into place was the restriction on how many people there could be in group gatherings2. This affected people were involved in group sports, people who went to yoga, spin, and pilates studios, and people who went to gyms.


A person wearing a grey tank top, black shorts, a lighter grey backpack, and a white and red helmet is biking. The person is biking along in either a city or residential area as buildings can be seen in the background. Just behind the biker is a bush with pink and orange flowers and in front of the biker is a metal railing.

Person Biking by Victor He on Unsplash 

On the 23 of March, all of Ontario’s non-essential businesses were closed. Even public playgrounds were quarantine off with caution tape. People were told to stay home in quarantine, and to only leave for essential visits such as to the grocery store, pharmacy or hospital, and to work (for those who still had jobs that did not close down)3. Due to the quarantine, people had to turn to at-home exercising ideas. Some people decided to go on jogs or bike rides around the neighbourhood for their daily break and fresh air amidst the quarantine. Instead of jogs, others started using at home exercise equipment like treadmills and exercise bikes that they already owned. Many people also decided to invest in exercise equipment such as yoga mats, weights, and pilates equipment as quarantine extended over one month. So many people bought exercise equipment that many sought out items actually became sold out online. I actually bought some equipment to continue my pilates routine at home and it took me a few weeks to find a yoga mat and some other items that were not sold out. According to a Business Insider article, equipment such as weights and dumbbells quickly rose to some of the most popular items on online stores and sold out. Many sport companies and other retail locations such as Walmart have been out of stock of fitness equipment because of gym closure and it is expected to stay like that for some time. 

With the equipment that people managed to buy, they started to do their own exercise routines at home. While many made up their own, mimicking what they did at their gym prior to the quarantine, many people turned to online classes. There are many YouTube videos with classes on specific routines that individuals can follow easily at home in front of a T.V or laptop. There are also many apps that have fitness videos that are both free and paid for. An article by The Guardian shows how a online fitness app FIIT that was released in 2018 has been downloaded by various people and offers them filmed workout routines with instructors pushing participants though a fitness routine. Apps like these offer members an opportunity to have what seem like personal trainers push them through routine while in the comfort of their own homes, seperated from others who go to gym, which is a much safer option now that COVID-19 is still infecting many. 

Children in Quarantine 

A child in a blue t-shirt and a silver/white helmet sits on a bike looking back towards the photographer. The child, who is on his bike at a park is pouting and has his arms crossed. The child is upset because the park is closed with the swings and climbing structure is taped up with caution tape. On the swings is a sign explaining that the park is closed. A pink flamingo inflatable floats in a backyard inflatable pool. Behind the pool in the backyard, bushes and a BBQ can be seen. To the left the tops of trees can be seen and the blue sky is in the background.

                                Disappointed Child by Mick Haupt on Unsplash    Pink Flamingo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash 

Exercise for children has also been changed. During the quarantine, children could not be with their friends at school or on playdates and the neighbourhood parks were closed. Not only are schools and parks closed but the summer camps that kept children active and out of the house are also closed, leaving children stuck in the house all day long. To fix this, many parents have turned to the internet to try and keep their children active and outside, attempting to buy backyard pools and trampolines to put up for their children. However, like toilet paper and fitness equipment, pools and trampolines were quickly sold out. For those parents lucky enough to find what they were looking for, many prices were increased due to the huge demand for these summer products.  According to a CBC news article even the suppliers of those who sold pools and trampolines online were sold out of the sought out products. Hopefully next summer is a different picture for those bored kids and exhausted parents. 

The End of Quarantine and the Reopening of Businesses  

A gym is shown with light wooden floors and white walls and ceiling. IN the gym is numerous workout equipment and machines such as spin bikes. All the machines are black with orange details.Two women wearing facemasks sit on yoga mats outside. The woman to the left is wearing all black and she sits on a blue yoga mat. The woman on the right is wearing black leggings and a blue hoodie and sits on a pink yoga mat. Both are wearing white face masks and have their eyes closed and are sitting with the hands at heart centre pose. Their yoga mats are on grass and in the background, there is a path and trees.

      Empty Gym by Humphray Muleba on Unsplash                                Yoga in the Park by Gustavo Fring on Pexels 

As quarantine ended and businesses opened back up, gyms and studios also resumed business4. Many fitness studios such as yoga and pilates studios have resumed classes outside where instructors can teach multiple people at once but still social distance the required two feet. However, there are now many different heath guidelines including a limited amount of people that can be in groups both inside and outside. The rule is that no more than 50 people inside can be together and no more than 100 people can be together outside5. People must remian two feet apart from one another. This has limited many people from going to their gyms as they are full. Some gyms have started putting set appointments and time limits on how long individuals can stay, so others can also have an opportunity to do their own routines. Various guidelines surrounding gyms and fitness studios have also been implemented surrounding hygiene. Visitors to gyms must wear face masks and are encouraged to bring their own equipment such as yoga mats, foam rollers, ect, and equipment which must be cleaned after every use.


Even with these new restrictions in place, there have been multiple breakouts of COVID-19 in fitness settings. In September of 2020, five separate Toronto gyms had COVID-19 infections. According to a global news article both members of the gyms and employees were the ones who tested positive. Another positive COVID-19 test happened to another gym goer later that month in Peterborough according to a news article and the other members of that gym were warned to look for symptoms of COVID-19. Then in October of 2020 a large outbreak of COVID-19 in a Hamilton spin studio, of 72 people, had Ontario re-thinking the guidelines of recreational fitness. In this case 45 people from the studio including members and employees contracted the virus which then spread to 27 other people from those households. The company of the spin studio, SPINCO closed down all Ontario locations following the outbreak.  These outbreaks in gyms caused Toronto gyms to be shut down for 25 days in the Toronto area in early October. This closure was followed by Ontario's Health Minister stating that gyms were risky locations for the virus in a Toronto CTV News article. This statement came around the same time as members of Goodlife Fitness were urged by the company to write to their local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to promote the re-opening of gyms due to the economic challenges that the company faced. Goodlife Fitness told Global News that they would continue working with members of the government and public health to promote the gym as a safe space for their members to be in.

COVID-19 and Present Day

Numerous small glass vaccine bottles are shown with blue caps. The bottles are in rows and only two are seen fully while the other ten are seen only partially as they are cut out of the photo. Each bottle has a white label that has COVID-19, Coronavirus Vaccine typed in blue ink.

COVID-19 Vaccine Bottle Mockup by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

As of December 2020, numerous vaccines for COVID-19 have been approved by countries around the world. In a statement on on December 9, Health Canada stated that they had authorized a vaccine for use and that they would be monitoring the vaccine once it hits the market. Soonm individuals will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine and the next stage in this fight against the global pandemic will begin. Hopefully gyms and other recreational activities will become safe places where people can get back to their normal lives and routines in this next year to come.  

For more information on Sports and COVID-19 see the Main Page or Page One, Two, Three, Four, Five, or Six

1. Nielsen, Kevin. “A Timeline of the Novel Coronavirus in Ontario” Global News, April 24, 2020. 

2. Canadian Healthcare Network. “COVID-19: A Canadian timeline” Accessed November 29, 2020.  

3. Nielsen, Kevin. “A Timeline of the Novel Coronavirus in Ontario” Global News, April 24, 2020. 

4. Nielsen, Kevin. “A Timeline of the Novel Coronavirus in Ontario” Global News, April 24, 2020. 

5. Ontario. “Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities during COVID-19.” Accessed October 27, 2020.   


Canada,ca “Health  Canada authorizes first COVID-19 vaccine” Accessed December 9, 2020  

Canadian Healthcare Network. “COVID-19: A Canadian timeline” Accessed November 29, 2020.  

Davis, Greg. “Peterborough fitness club member tests positive for COVID-19: health unit”. Global News. September 18, 2020 

Herhalt, Chris “It's not safe to reopen gyms in COVID-19 hotspots, Ontario health minister says” Toronto CTV News, October 28, 2020 

Kale, Sirin. “The rise of digital fitness: can the new wave of high-intensity home workouts replace the gym?” The Guardian, August 19, 2019. 

King, Angelina, “Having a hard time finding a pool, hot tub or trampoline to buy? Here's why” 
CBC News, June 10, 2020.   

Nielsen, Kevin. “A Timeline of the Novel Coronavirus in Ontario” Global News, April 24, 2020. “Guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities during COVID-19.” Accessed October 27, 2020.    

Rapier, Graham. “Weight-lifting products that can be used at home are in high demand as gyms remain shuttered because of the coronavirus” Business Insider, June 13, 2020

Rodrigues, Gabby. “GoodLife Fitness encourages members to write Ontario MPPs in email blast” Global News, October 28, 2020 

Taekema, Dan. “Province to review gym guidelines as COVID-19 outbreak at Hamilton spin studio hits 72 cases”. CBC News, October 15, 2020 

Westoll, Nick. “Coronavirus: GoodLife Fitness reports COVID-19 cases at 5 Toronto-area gyms over past month” Global News, September 3, 2020 

World Health Organization. “Rolling Updates on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)” Accessed November 29.