Column: 3 steps to beating the pandemic blues


Commentary by Dave Stewart

If you are feeling COVID-19 has had a negative impact on your physical and emotional well-being, you are not alone.

According to a survey by the American Psychology Association in February of 2021, 61 percent of adults reported experiencing unwanted weight change since the start of the pandemic, with 42 percent saying they gained more weight than they intended. On average, this group gained 29 pounds. Nineteen percent of these adults reported they lost more weight than they wanted to, with an average of 26 pounds lost. Nearly half of parents reported an increase in stress during the pandemic, and all age groups reported that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic.

These survey results are not surprising. As a personal trainer during the past year, I have witnessed the decline in mental and physical health during the two-month shutdown one year ago and throughout the year. We reassessed the functional fitness of our members upon return, and it was common to see a decline.

Within a month of exercising, many of our members were able to restore their functional fitness and reported feeling mentally better now that they had a place to safely work out with friends.

As vaccinations continue to increase, along with activity in our grocery stores, restaurants and on the roads, many individuals are asking how to regain mental and physical health. Based on what I have seen the past several months, I recommend three key steps to getting your well-being back on track.

First, start moving! With the weather sunny and warmer, start outside and begin walking. Even if you are concerned about COVID-19, you can maintain social distancing while walking. Find a friend to join you, wear masks and take a brisk walk daily.

Second, join a fitness facility with comprehensive COVID-19 protocols. Although you may have been walking this past year, strength loss is a common concern of our returning members.  Walking is good for the heart; however, strength is vital to everyday activities. Work with a personal trainer who understands the importance of safe and age-appropriate exercise to regain your strength, balance, flexibility and to work toward better movement.

Third, socialize while exercising. The attendance at our fitness classes has increased significantly the past two months. With more vaccinations, social distancing during exercise, COVID-19 protocols and significant equipment cleaning, members feel safe exercising together. More important, this time with others includes laughter, camaraderie and caring for one another.

I hear on a daily basis how important this socialization has been and continues to be during the pandemic. Some of our members did not leave their house during the shutdown and were not able to see family or friends either. One of our members. Anne, said, “I always forget how much better exercise makes me feel until I stop and start again. That is the way it was during the COVID shutdown and subsequent re-opening of Motion 4 Life Fitness. Working out in a safe, friendly place gave me more energy and a much more positive outlook.”

The stress of the pandemic has negatively impacted our mental, physical and emotional health. However, with a focus on eating healthy, engaging socially and exercising, you can regain your strength and improve how you feel on a daily basis. Beat the pandemic blues and take a step toward a better you. Remember, staying fit never gets old!

Dave Stewart is the director of personal training at Motion 4 Life Fitness.