We all need an outlet where we can do something that benefits our health, and release stress and anxiety, especially this year. For many of us, that place is our local fitness center. The place we feel safest and most comfortable. Now moving into the new year, many of us are making resolutions to refocus on our health, but without fitness centers, this will be difficult if not impossible for many of us.
With our fitness centers closed, many people are experiencing depression at a fast-paced rate. Some of these folks are those who have never struggled with depression before, which is extremely dangerous, especially during our current lockdowns, and will affect many in the long term even after restrictions are lifted.
People who are stuck in their homes with no familiar outlet to release frustrations can be inclined to self-harm in a variety of ways. For some, it may include overeating to the point of gaining unhealthy weight or physically harming. Sadly, more than 40% of Americans have reported struggling with mental health or substance use during the pandemic. And one in four young adults has also contemplated suicide during this pandemic. These are sad and frightening statistics.
Physical activity is vital to our health, at all ages, and has long-term mental health benefits as well. It is proven to reduce stress and depression as research shows how exercise reduces anxiety and appears as effective as psychotherapy for treating mild to moderate depression. Many Californians are sitting at home, struggling with their mental health, and their physical health is also suffering without access to proper equipment and safe environments to work out and stay physically healthy.
Access is a huge issue when it comes to necessary equipment for specific disabilities, physical limitations, or health goals. With limited physical activities available to those in average-income communities, you can imagine that lower-income communities are suffering the most. Families are unable to afford a home fitness center and do not have space to workout inside their home.
We know the risks of long-term inactivity and we are aware that our mental and physical health is declining during these lockdowns. We need to speak up. Now is the time for Gov. Gavin Newsom to start listening and make a change.
Large fitness facilities have been able to successfully meet all safety requirements when they were temporarily open this summer, and have more space and ability to keep members at a distance than a grocery store with narrow aisles. A case-control study published in the Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found no statistically significant association between COVID-19 test results and visiting a fitness center.
The fitness centers in California that can provide a safe environment that meets all safety protocols must and should be deemed “essential.” They are essential to the physical and mental health of all Californians during these times and will keep us mentally and physically healthy.
Reopening our fitness centers – and keeping them open – is a top priority in providing access for all Californians to a safe place where everyone can stay positive and healthy in the long term.