There is no other way of saying it, COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. The impact is being felt in every household, every workplace and everyone’s experience is unique.
CEO of Lifeline Canberra Carrie-Anne Leeson says that for many people the pandemic has bought about a degree of loss and inactivity is driving anxiety in the community, threatening our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Lifeline has reported a 25 per cent increase in calls compared to the same time last year as the impact of business closures, social isolation, health concerns and financial stress continue to take a toll on Australians’ mental health.
“When you go outside you can see what is happening. With our normal coping strategies, like going to the gym, playing sport or socialising taken away from us, we are being forced out of our homes and into the streets, walking, running and riding bikes to find some remedy to our stress,” Ms Leeson said.
“Isolation has bought a disconnection right at the time when we need connection. This is a tough time for everyone. It is not just losing our routines, there is financial pain and stress as well.”
A recent report on the impact of COVID-19 on the fitness industry by Fitness Australia noted that physical activity is an important public health tool and that regular exercise reduces stress and symptoms of mental health conditions and can help with recovery from mental health issues.
With a membership of over 23,000 fitness professionals servicing an industry that makes a significant contribution to Australia’s economy, Fitness Australia is on the frontline of improving the physical and fiscal health of the nation.
Physical exercise is an essential component of improving both physical and mental health and regular exercise has been linked to better stress management. Ms Leeson says that going to the gym is good for burning off the stresses of life and a place for social connection that are hard to replace during shut down.
CEO of Viva Leisure Harry Konstantinou says the forced closure of gyms in Australia due to the restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the fitness industry and its customers. The Viva Leisure group, including the Club Lime and hiit republic facilities, is now busy preparing for reopening.
“Considering the fitness sector’s overall contribution to the health of Australia’s economy, in addition to the social and mental health benefits of physical fitness, it is no doubt in the interests of government and the fitness industry to work together to get the sector back up and running as soon as practicable,” Mr Konstantinou said.
“Stage 2 is going to be challenging due to the restrictions on numbers within each space and because each state will have different requirements on how this should be executed. That being said, we now have technology in place to support each centre, including sophisticated people counters that will allow members to check capacity before they visit.”
Mr Konstantinou says other measures include an increase in hand sanitising stations, continual cleaning of equipment by staff, ample spacing around equipment and limits on class numbers.
“We implemented many social distancing measures across all our clubs prior to COVID-19 closing our doors, so we are ready to open. We are just waiting for the go-ahead from the governments.
“We have has so much positive feedback from the community and our members. Everyone is excited to see our doors open and so are we. Gyms and leisure centres are important to the community. Once we reopen, our mental health will begin to improve.”
In the meantime, Ms Leeson says, while we can’t get to the gym, it is important to broaden our perspective and focus on what we can control.
“While we are all fatigued and frustrated, it can be good to shine a light on our past lives and look at what we don’t want to rush back to. It wasn’t a mental health utopia before COVID-19. Take care of yourself now and, if you have the capacity, take some time to care for others, too.”