British Columbia

B.C. lifts restrictions on low-intensity indoor group exercise

Low-intensity exercise classes are allowed to resume under an updated COVID-19 safety plan set out by B.C.'s health authorities.

High-impact indoor group exercise is still not allowed under health order

An updated public health order is allowing businesses and recreation centres to resume low-impact physical activities for indoor groups. (Shutterstock)

B.C. health officials have lifted restrictions on low-intensity indoor group exercise — allowing activities like hatha yoga, low intensity pilates and tai chi to resume once more.

High-intensity indoor group exercises like aerobics, circuit training and interval training continue to be prohibited under public health orders. 

The new order, released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of Health, says past health orders which limited group indoor exercise were due to inadequate physical distancing and limited ventilation increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in those settings.

"The overarching intent is to support people to participate in important health-promoting activities while reducing COVID-19 transmission risk," the order said.

The order gives the following examples of exercises that can resume:

  • Barre (lower intensity classes)
  • Exercise machines/cardio equipment (low intensity)
  • Light weightlifting
  • Pilates (lower intensity classes)
  • Stretching
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga (hatha) 

It adds that this list is not exhaustive and that operators of gyms, studios and fitness centres should use their best judgment in identifying what category a group exercise class falls into.

In order to resume these classes, operators are told they must revise their COVID-19 safety plans with updated guidelines, which include: 

  • Physical distancing of 2.5 metres between each patron in all directions at all times.
  • Outer doors and windows left open or partially open at all times, where possible.
  • Discontinuing the use of floor and wall fans.
  • Arranging staggered arrival and departure times to reduce bottle-necking.
  • Keeping change rooms and showers closed; washrooms can remain open.
  • Requiring instructors to use microphones so they don't raise their voices beyond a normal speaking volume. 
  • Keeping music below speaking volume in order to reduce singing or shouting.
  • Turning off water fountains.
  • Requiring instructors to wear masks at all times, unless they are exercising or in the designated instructor area, and encouraging attendees to wear a mask during exercise.
  • Regular cleaning of high-touch equipment and surfaces.

Provincial health authorities had ordered operators of low-impact indoor fitness activities to temporarily suspend those activities across B.C. on Nov. 24

The order was an update to restrictions Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued four days earlier, when activities like spin classes, high intensity interval training and hot yoga were suspended.

Authorities say public health guidelines will continue to be updated as the pandemic evolves.


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