The Health pandemic that Ignores Health

You may well have noticed over the past 7-8 months of something known as Covid-19. A truly terrible virus that has disrupted the lives of millions.

Yes, we are in the midst of a health pandemic. We are fighting on a daily basis to save the lives of people who are susceptible to the virus. We are socially distancing. Washing our hands. Isolating when needed. Even being fully locked down in certain areas of the country.

I think the measures being taken to help save people are good and shows a level of leadership. It’s what the government feels we need right now, even if some disagree with the methods that are currently being implemented.

And even though the majority of these measures are set in place to help save lives, I do have one gripe. One very big gripe actually.

We are in the middle of a health pandemic, but actually health, whether physical, mental or social, are continually being brushed aside. It just doesn’t feel like long term health is a priority right now.

I can’t help but feel we are only looking at the short term, rather than the bigger picture.

You might have guessed I’m talking about the closure of gyms in Wales during this most recent ‘lockdown’, or ‘fire breaker’, as its being called by the government.

For the record, I have no issue with the actual ‘fire breaker’, as it will help ease the burden on the NHS. Obviously that’s the main objective.

However, to close the gyms and leisure centres, I believe, is nothing short of negligence. The evidence is out there. Gyms in Liverpool have had the decision to close them overturned, and in other ‘tier 3’ areas of the country, gyms have been allowed to stay open. So why not in Wales??

Before you may feel I am biased, as I work within a gym and love the environment, throughout my 8 years in the industry and over 20,000 hours of one to one PT experience (yes really), I have seen first-hand the phenomenal impact physical exercise has on the health and mental wellbeing of people.

We need to look at the long-term health of the nation, not just what is happening at present. And by closing the gyms and studios all over the country, we are fueling the issues that the NHS has to deal with on a daily basis. (Yes, the NHS was overworked, and understaffed, even before Covid-19 came along)

One area that has been discussed in the media are the underlying factors affecting increased risk of contracting Covid-19, or indeed increased risk of morbidity. These include higher body weight, namely obesity, diabetes, respiratory issues, alongside genetic factors such as ethnicity, gender and age. The fact remains that we should be doing all we can, and by allowing people to have access to regular movement and exercise, as well as some form of social interaction outside of their homes, this will in fact work alongside protecting the NHS. Not against it.

It is well documented, historically and within numerous current studies, that regular participation in physical activity has positive effects on the maintenance of ‘healthy’ weight, easing of respiratory issues, decreasing type 2 diabetes, not to mention the tremendous positive impact it can have on mental health and reducing stress, anxiety, depression, improving mood, elevating self-esteem and improving cognitive function.

The use of Leisure Centres was put in place as far back as the 1950’s to combat these exact health issues. So, at a time when the public need this more than ever, why is it deemed unnecessary?? I can’t help but feel undervalued by our government not only in my profession where I pride myself in improving the quality of people’s lives, but also as an actual person. As people, we rely on Leisure Centres, health facilities, wellness centres, for our continued and long-term health. If we neglect the long-term benefits, and focus only on the short term, where does that leave us for 2021 and beyond?? What will the repercussions and impact of this be? And could it be at an increased cost of the health and finances of the nation??

Delving deeper, and it seems to me the science is being completely overlooked. We are told that ‘the science’ is the driving factor behind the decisions being made. But in regard to leisure centres, this seems totally illogical. With gyms having seen only 0.34 cases per 100,000 people visiting the facilities, I cannot fathom why they are being undervalued so much. It’s not justifiable.

Should we really be trading our long-term health for short term protection?

If we really want to help ease the burden on the NHS, then surely, we should be doing all we can to improve the health of the general public. If this is the case, then surely we should be classing gyms and leisure centres in an ‘essential’ bracket, especially during a ‘health pandemic’?

Closing these facilities, when they are actually needed the most, is like trying to put out a fire with a water pistol.

When actually, if you allow people to exercise in a safe environment, then it’s more like putting out a match with a bucket of water. Nipping any future health pandemics in the bud should be the focal point right now. But instead, the closures are only going to worsen the situation.

All I can say is a huge thankyou to all of the gym facilities and leisure centres that have helped the local communities feel safe and secure while exercising. It’s not been an easy task, and they have adhered to the government’s guidelines and rules to the full.

I truly believe that health facilities are an absolute necessity within society and will fight to help make sure they are given the recognition they deserve.