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‘A huge blow’: Fitness expert worries about mental health with B.C. gyms closing again

Click to play video: 'Fitness industry impacted by new COVID restrictions' Fitness industry impacted by new COVID restrictions
The operators of gyms and other fitness facilities say the latest BC Public Health Orders are going to have a major impact on their businesses and the mental and physical well-being of their clients. Neetu Garcha reports – Dec 22, 2021

New restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant in B.C. include shutting down gyms and fitness facilities until at least Jan. 18, 2022.

Sara Hodson, president of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, said the announcement on Tuesday came as a surprise to them.

“We have worked with the provincial government really closely over the last 21 months to keep the majority of fitness in British Columbia open and we have been delivering this safely to British Columbians,” she said.

The new year is typically the biggest time in the industry to welcome people back to the gym, Hodson added, so this is a “huge blow” for the industry and for British Columbians.

Click to play video: 'Bars and fitness facilities ordered to close as Omicron drives up COVID-19 cases' Bars and fitness facilities ordered to close as Omicron drives up COVID-19 cases
Bars and fitness facilities ordered to close as Omicron drives up COVID-19 cases – Dec 22, 2021

Read more: COVID-19 — B.C. to ban indoor organized events, shut nightclubs, and keep home gatherings small

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On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said officials know gyms, fitness centres and dance studios have “unfortunately been places where transmission events have happened and have spread out to people in the community.”

“So we need to go to the very important remote support for people in some of these,” she said.

Hodson said they have not seen any data on an increase in cases related to gyms or fitness facilities and they know how important exercise can be for mental health and social connection.

“Exercise is medicine. This is about our mental health. This is about our social connection,” she said. “I hear from doctors, nurses, police officers and firefighters that going to the gym is an outlet for them to be mentally prepared for their next shift.”

Hodson added she hopes this is short-term and said businesses are in desperate need of financial support from the government.

But she wants to make sure British Columbians keep moving over the holidays, in any way they can.

“This is not the time to be sedentary or sit still,” she said. “We need to keep moving no matter what.”

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Mixed reaction to BC’s latest round of restrictions – Dec 21, 2021

Read more: ‘Disappointed but not surprised’ — B.C. businesses hit by latest COVID rules call for more support

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Hodson added she thinks fitness facilities could have put more measures in place in order to keep businesses open, rather than closing them completely over the new year.

“But we will forge ahead and we will create ways that our members can stay active,” she said. “And that’s the most important thing.”

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