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Our Health….A fitness perspective in a Covid19 era

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Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 4:42 pm CST.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Kinetic Health and Fitness and do not represent official position or views of Breaking Belize News.

By Kinetic Health & Fitness: Recently, Covid19 has been politicized and continues to dominate and disrupt lives everywhere, particularly due to its novel status. Lockdowns, restrictions, new legislations, schools closed, businesses closed down— all these have been rolled out at the macro level with a view to contain its spread. It’s unprecedented. The nation has had to prioritize health restrictions over economic activity at the onset of the phase. It’s a delicate balance as time has shown that the prolonged restricted effects at the business, school and personal levels have been less than ideal and with it emphasizing certain weaknesses within our society that have further been exacerbated.

The pandemic has forced us all to adapt and make adjustments. Though this is easier said than done and some adapt faster than others, the reality is that life as we knew it before COVID will never be the same. With this factor “inviting” itself into our society, we know that we must find a way to co-exist and that will mean that we will need to make adjustments. Changing behaviors is no easy feat. However if an honest effort is made, we are sure to see meaningful change that will make life easier for us as we navigate through these turbulent times. “Small steps eventually add up to huge results.”

There are several methods to change and the impetus varies. Let’s take for example, our health and fitness. The pandemic may have several of us re-thinking our life choices and how that impacts our wellbeing. That’s a good place to start, if you have not yet. Making “deposits” in the bank of health will allow you to later “withdraw” from those “savings.” But if there’s no “savings” then there’s nothing to “withdraw.” We cannot go back in time, but we can certainly take action today that will add up in the future and put you ahead. Good health is something you build over time. You don’t get good health overnight, and there’s no pill you take to instantly make you healthy. Make sure you are dedicating time to “building” it.

Why is it important to Exercise?

Health can be viewed from either a treatment (for a disease) perspective or from a prevention point of view (lifestyle changes). A hybrid also exists. We will focus on the preventative side of good health with a focus on fitness. Proper nutrition is also important and more on that in a subsequent article.

Simply put, regular exercise improves quality of life and protects health. The operative word being “regular.” But we agree that it’s not that simple. Death does eventually come for us all, but having a regular physical activity routine preserves healthspan and quality of life. After all, what is the point of living well past the average life expectancy when the last 15 years of one’s life is spent battling against chronic lifestyle diseases and gradual loss of physical capacity? At this point, we also become dependent on our families for assistance and then there’s the rising cost of healthcare which may or may not be affordable. Quality of life matters.

Exercise objectives vary and there are many types of exercises one may engage in. Exercise selection will vary depending on circumstances, preferences and/or their effectiveness. It will also depend on the individual’s health and fitness goals and their starting point. Exercise also protects health. We are not getting any younger, so loss of muscle tissue is a certainty as we age. A key benefit of resistance training is safeguarding against chronic sarcopenia which leads to loss of basic quality of life. Resistance training also helps to regulate blood sugar level, manage body fat levels, help with nutrition partitioning, controlling many factors that can mitigate non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, among others.

Sport is a form of exercise, but not to be confused with fitness. A lifelong fitness pursuit is more about health than it is about sports performance or aesthetics. Fitness is attainable at any age and it encompasses many types of physical activities. While sports, on the other hand, can help you attain fitness, it is more specific in nature and usually age-biased. Fitness is more general in nature, easily individualized and can affect training of all body parts. It’s carryover health benefits are more. More people can be engaged in a fit lifestyle than in sports, allowing a greater cross section of society to participate and become healthier. Doing both is great and being involved in a sport in the beginning will most likely have you lead a fit lifestyle for years to come.

Obesity & Non-communicable diseases

Another common known factor is that obesity brings with it many health complications including noncommunicable diseases. Recently, obesity has been cited as a major factor for Covid complications which adds another reason why obesity is deadly.

During the onset of the pandemic, we all stayed at home and activity levels plummeted. In addition, eating is the de facto goto as a coping mechanism for most modern day humans. Those two factors set the environment for rapid and extremely unhealthy weight-gain in a short amount of time. Added to that was mental fatigue and stress from the uncertainty of the pandemic and you get the perfect storm.

With gyms closed, even those who were once active fell into the abyss making it harder to come back. Obesity can be managed with proper help and guidance. It takes time and requires support on several fronts. Gyms provide an outlet to help people get on that journey and stay the course. Home exercises are good and encouraged but it doesn’t compare to the gym environment. Online training is also good, but nothing beats an in-person session. Generally, most people think they know what they are doing when it comes to exercise. However, according to the WHO, the average obesity rate has been gradually on the increase over the past three decades. Hence, more of us need to seek professional guidance to be able to execute better and effectively. Exercising for years and not seeing results would indicate that changes need to be made to your exercise “formula.”

Starting your journey:

Most of us are well aware of the benefits that come from being fit and healthy. We’re also aware that we should eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein and get in regular physical exercise. Finding the discipline and sticking to it –now that’s the hardest part, BUT it holds the key to reaping those benefits.

Traditionally and culturally (arguably), we don’t think about fitness as a top priority in our life. Most people think of fitness in relation to athletes competing and more from a standpoint of sports which is viewed as a hobby. This seems to be a “temporary” mindset–something you do when you have time. Unfortunately, it is rare to see career athletes and even rarer is to see our older population as fit individuals. In the health and fitness sector, we do see some of this changing, albeit very slowly. That’s encouraging and we applaud it. However, more needs to be done individually and collectively to be able to have more of us lead healthier, longer and happier lives for the long run.

The role of gyms/fitness providers

As a fitness provider, we have found that it is quite typical for people interested in leading fitter and healthier lives to not know what to do. That’s ok, because gyms have a purpose and a role to play. Gyms provide the following benefits:

  1. guidance & support throughout the process ensuring exercise compliance;
  2. accountability for its patrons to stay the course and stay focused;
  3. sense of connection with trainers/members important to mental well-being;
  4. peer support which helps with adherence, enjoyment and satisfaction of exercising;
  5. working out alongside capable peers is likely to increase your intensity;
  6. inspiring environment that embraces active habits and cultivating long-term health.

We reiterate that good health is achieved over a period of time. Getting and staying fit is a lifestyle. It is something that becomes routine. It has to be habitual for its benefits to be reaped.

Gym safety in a Covid19 era

Like every other industry, gyms have also had to adapt. Given the nature of the pandemic, additional safety measures had to be incorporated into the operational systems of gyms to keep their staff and patrons safe. These have included more frequent cleaning and sanitizing of equipment, social distancing, operating at reduced capacity levels and frequent hand washing and sanitizing protocols.

The typical gym-goer has certain attributes. They tend to be more health-conscious. They adhere to safety protocols (and gym management has an obligation to ensure that those are respected). They value the gym environment. Several actually depend on it to help them stay focused and be compliant. They will adhere as they don’t want to risk being ejected nor forfeit their fitness routine. Many will also self-regulate and make the decision whether they feel safe to go to their gym, or not. In many ways, safety is an individual responsibility which we have seen play out over the past months in the gym.

There is no situation where there is no-risk for Covid19. Actually, death may be the only situation where there is no risk. There are risks at supermarkets, gas stations, markets, bus terminals where risk is much greater and where we all still have access to. In a controlled environment where safety protocols are adhered to, the risks are much less. In addition, Covid19 is permanent and our approach should consider solutions that look at managing necessary activities rather than striking them off altogether. In fact, behaviors are changing as everywhere you go, hand sanitizing, face masks and social distancing have to be practiced. Compliance has gotten better as it becomes the norm and we see that in the gyms as well.

The private/public sector relationship in managing & promoting health & fitness

Earlier this year as a preventive measure, gyms were closed for over 2 months. Prevention and safeguarding lives will always be top priority. Working in the health & fitness sector, we genuinely understand this reasoning. The coalition of fitness providers in Belize came together to make a case for its safe reopening. The objective was and continues to be, to make a meaningful contribution to better health by providing the enabling environment necessary to get people in a physically and mentally healthy state while enacting safety protocols during the Covid19 era.

There is an African proverb that reads like this “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This thinking has its merits. The promotion of leading healthy and fit lifestyles can be easily regurgitated. Anyone can repeat this. However, we also know that while it’s important to be reminded, the real change comes from action.

Gyms and fitness providers as operators in the private sector not only have a responsibility to their core business, but they are in the trenches. They are in the front-lines, dealing with individuals and taking them to a healthier place, providing the benefits listed herein. A collaborative approach between the public and private sectors would do well to address (and track) issues the nation faces such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and others that can be mitigated by leading a physically active lifestyle. Think about it. The result could be meaningfully impactful (economically, physically and emotionally) on our healthcare system and produce a healthier population.

If it wasn’t obvious before, the pandemic has certainly emphasized that we live in a time where “traditional” is no longer reliable. New and creative ways need to be forged to be able to stay ahead, to be able to reach new heights. Collaboration makes the task much less daunting, more attainable and builds confidence in navigating the new territory and rough seas.

The health & fitness sector has a role to play in supporting the recovery of individuals in the Covid19 era as well as getting people to develop and stick to healthier habits. The enabling environment is a critical component to set the path.

Building back better

We don’t know all the answers and we can’t predict the future. However, adversity has a way of testing our grit. There are lessons to be learned from this pandemic. Let’s ensure we are better prepared. We can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can certainly take charge of our circumstances today and build on it every other day. Gyms are an important conduit to mental and physical health. They are a cornerstone to better health. Hopefully gyms will be allowed to reopen soon and be able to serve their patrons who depend on them to get them to that place of better health. Hopefully, it will be the opinion of more people that health and fitness does matter and that supportive action needs to be taken. Lip service will not cut it. Let’s get back to work. Be intentional and add meaning to the cause. Individually and collectively, how are we leveling up in improving our health and fitness in a Covid19 era? Think about it.

 

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