Letter to the Editor – Gym shutdowns are negatively affecting physical and mental health

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The shutdown of fitness centers is impacting people across generations. I know it has deeply impacted everyone in my family, from myself to my 14-year-old son. Most importantly though, it is affecting people like my mom.

My mother is 84 years old. She does everything she can to stay active. Has dumbbells in her room, walks, plays tennis, and jogs. When the air is smoky though, or the temps are too cold, her opportunities become restricted. For her and many people her age, I am afraid that the government’s protections are leading to negative outcomes and a rapid physical fitness decline.

In addition to physical health, I know that this could impact her mental health as well. A recent study found that people aged 60 years or above had a higher likelihood of depression and poor health-related quality of life during the ongoing pandemic. A study from the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that older adults who met the global recommendations of vigorous and moderately-vigorous physical activity had higher resilience and lower depressive symptoms.

More and more it is becoming clear that we all need exercise for our physical and mental health. But for those of us that can’t afford a home gym, where are we supposed to go to exercise safely? Outdoor activities may work for some people, but for others like my mom, circumstances can make it challenging.

The majority of our state still has zero access to fitness facilities. With negative impacts from inactivity on cardiovascular and mental health building up, at what point does our primary concern become the cure laid down to protect us in the first place?

Exercise is an essential part of wellness for all Californians and should be recognized by our state officials as a “need”, and not just a “want”. Capacity restrictions to ensure safety is fine, but we need access, if even at controlled percentages, and especially for those with little other safe alternatives.

Our families, friends, and neighbors need this. We all need this.

Californians do not want to rebel or put themselves at risk in unsafe environments for an attempt at exercise. We want to be somewhere safe and protected. We appreciate the risks at this moment with COVID-19, but we also recognize the extended risks that our community could experience if our mental and physical health continues to decline at its current rate. Gyms and fitness centers that are willing and able to follow reasonable rules and regulations toward keeping their members safe should be allowed to open right away.

James Connelly, Long Beach Resident