Stress, weight gain from COVID-19 pandemic driving more to join gyms

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 10:27 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Stress and weight are a couple common, usually unwanted additions that for many, came along during the COVID-19 pandemic. From this, some local gyms are seeing a few more members, joining for dual benefits.

Joining a gym can help with mental health, as well as strength-building and weight loss said Eric Litwiller with the Mental health Association of South Central Kansas.

Alma Hammer is among those who didn’t let the shutdown shut out her physical activity. With the added stress that came with the changes and uncertainty, she said running was her escape.

“Being physically fit and just running and doing those things is so much more for me, mental,” she said. “The fit body is an added bonus. It’s just the mental health.”

Hammer has been a member of Orange Theory Fitness since October. The gym’s owners said they’ve seen a few more members since reopening several weeks ago. Like Hammer, several members credited their mind and body health to the physical activity in their gyms.

“That one hour, all I need to focus on is me, and I think with everyday life, we get so busy that we don’t have that opportunity. So that’s my favorite hour of the day,” Hammer said.

The Greater Wichita YMCA has also registered new members, but they say their free, virtual programming called YMCA 360 is even more popular. Mental health experts say you don’t have to go to a gym to get the health benefits from physical activity. Even something as simple as a walk can help.

“Certainly, we encourage physical activity, but there is a difference between exercise and physical activity,” Litwiller said. “They’re both positive. Obviously, they help release endorphins, which we all know about. They help us control our weight, which certainly has a mental and physical health impact as well.”

He pointed out that physical health also includes a proper diet, a good night’s rest and drinking enough water.

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