From the 25th of July, the Government allowed gyms to reopen after the first national lockdown. As the threat of a second national lockdown looms over our heads, with many local lockdowns across the north of the country, gyms are likely to close down once again in areas where cases are high.
Currently, some gyms in the UK may be able to stay open but they must be COVID-secure and enforce increased hygiene and social distancing.
On the 12th of October, the Government announced new tiered local lockdown restrictions – with medium, high and very high risk groups. If your area enters the medium or high levels of restriction (1st & 2nd tier) then gyms can still stay open if the premises is safe and social distancing can be followed.
However, if your area falls into the very high category (3rd tier) then hospitality and leisure venues must close, including gyms. This will have a negative effect on the financial market and could have a serious effect on people’s mental health.
After the first lockdown, we now know that mental health seriously worsened in the UK – A survey showed that in the first week of lockdown just over 1 in 10 people had thoughts of self-harming or suicide.
Many people are asking the government to provide a solution to this issue, but they have a difficult job juggling COVID-19 cases, finances, restrictions and health issues already.
How Do Gyms Affect Mental Health?
The gym is often an environment where the community within motivates itself to exercise and stay healthy, the whole culture of gyms revolves around staying fit and healthy.
Many people find it difficult to find the drive and enthusiasm to start exercising, it can often feel like a chore. This is reduced in a gym, everyone has to start somewhere and the atmosphere can drive people to work harder, with gym instructors there to help support you through your journey.
Exercising causes endorphins to be released, a chemical made by the body, which can reduce stress & pain and can create feelings of euphoria – Research has found exercise can help mental health issues like depression, anxiety and stress.
Keeping your body active and fit will lead to your mentality improving. That is what gyms are all about! Creating a supportive atmosphere that promotes self-growth, development and positive wellbeing.
Research has shown community-based exercise facilities like gyms can create a supportive community for mental health. Gyms are not just places where people go to exercise, they often also act as a support group for many people and can be a major social outlet.
They encourage people to spur each other on in their workouts and can often form life-long friendships.
This can provide a lifeline for people who live an isolated life or don’t have a good support system. Gyms can boost people’s self-esteem, improve social withdrawal, sleep quality, mood and energy levels – Many doctors and therapists recommend group exercise to help alleviate mental health symptoms and reduce feelings of isolation.
The Possible Effects of Gyms Shutting on Mental Health
Exercise has many positive effects on people with mental health issues, closing gyms down will inevitably reduce these positive effects, with fewer people able to stay active (especially if you can’t afford expensive gym equipment). Even those without existing mental health issues could struggle through these further lockdown restrictions.
As we’re moving into the winter months it won’t be as easy for people to exercise outside due to the unpredictable UK weather, and they might not be able to rely on gyms. With lots of predicted rain and potential snow, exercising outdoors may no longer be an option!
Not only are gyms a venue that encourages people to exercise and get active, they also allow for people to have a break from home life. Gyms closing will leave many people feeling like they don’t have anywhere to escape to, this can also negatively affect people’s mental health.
If an area is in the third tier of restrictions, many people will lose their ‘normal’ routines for the second time this year. Going to the gym and exercising can be a good distraction from bad life events, especially during a global pandemic.
It’s not just clients of gyms who will feel a negative effect on their mental health, but also the staff. Their staff rely on the gym staying open so they can continue to work and do what they’re passionate about, without this they can start to feel stressed which can seriously affect your mental wellbeing.
Outsourcing companies, like Wurkplace, can offer occupational health services to help support gym employees!
What Can You Do Instead of Going to the Gym?
There are alternatives to the gym, there are lots of free video workouts that you can do outside (garden, park, etc) or at home without any equipment and that don’t require a lot of space! Even doing 10 minutes can help boost your endorphins and improve your mental wellbeing.
Some gyms are offering outdoor, socially distant training sessions, individually or in groups (following the rule of 6) – Having someone for moral support can make exercising much easier! These sessions can help people feel less lonely and motivate you to exercise, which can be a good step towards improving your overall mental and physical health.
Yoga and meditation are also a good option for people who can’t go to the gym, these ancient practices are renowned for reducing stress, improving mental health and increasing immunity! Studies have suggested that when people do yoga it causes neurotransmitters to be fired in the brain which can help their psychological state.
These practices can be done at home, with lots of guided yoga and meditation videos online, helping you to get your foot in the door.
Lastly, if the weather permits, you can run or walk outside – the good old fashioned way! Being outside in nature can significantly improve your mood and mental health, just having fresh air and natural light can help alleviate insomnia and provide your body with vitamin D.
Getting exercise outdoors can also help work out your mind as it has to be aware of the changing terrain/environment, plus you can involve members of your household (friends, family or even pets).
Some experts argue that exercising outside could be more beneficial for mental and physical well being when compared to the same exercise indoors!
Amber is an Intern project support officer and blogger for Wurkplace, helping with digital marketing and content writing.
She holds a BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour degree from the University of Chester, and is passionate about broadening her skill set.