Published 11pm ET October 22, 2020
Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming election, people turn on the news to hear the latest numbers on both. However, when it comes to COVID-19, there are a number of other numbers Americans should be aware of: The tolls The virus has taken on our physical and mental health.
The lockdowns across the country caused people to settle down and physical activity to decrease by 32%. In addition, a recent national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that more than half of adults in the United States – about 53% – say their mental health was negatively affected by worries and stress about the pandemic. That number is a sharp increase from the 32% who said they were similarly affected in March.
In addition, these negative health trends also take into account health equity and health inequalities for some of our most vulnerable populations. In Michigan, physical inactivity and obesity disproportionately affect our lower-income population and our color communities. While the general obesity rate in Michigan is 33%, that number rises to 35.5% for Latinos and 40.3% for African Americans.
Fitness plays a vital role in fighting the virus and improving people's overall physical and mental health, writes Moritsugu. (Photo: Getty Images, posed by the model)
Fitness plays a vital role in fighting the virus and improving people's overall physical and mental health. Chronic conditions that affect millions of Americans, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, can cause complications and significantly increase the likelihood of hospitalizations and death for those with COVID-19.
There is also growing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Regular physical activity can protect us from these conditions while also helping us fight the virus. You may not think you have the time to get into a workout, but researchers found that just 20 minutes of exercise can have anti-inflammatory effects that boost your immune system.
Mental health, like physical health, has a disproportionate impact on our low-income communities. While 6.7% of Michigan residents who earn more than $ 75,000 a year reported having frequent mental health problems, that number quadruples to 24.3% for those who earn less than $ 25,000 a year.
Stress, anxiety, and depression increased in the United States during the pandemic. Many Americans have turned to alcohol, according to a study by RAND and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that found an increase in consumption. Study lead author and RAND sociologist Michael Pollard noted, "People's depression increases, anxiety increases, and (and) alcohol use is often a way of dealing with these feelings."
Fitness can also play a role here. Moving away from increased alcohol consumption and regular physical activity is known to have long-term mental health benefits that reduce the conditions many are currently struggling with.
All of this underscores the critical need for regular physical activity – especially now in the time of COVID – for the physical and mental wellbeing of our country.
In states reopening across the country, thousands of fitness centers, in coordination with local and national health officials, have developed strict safety and disinfection protocols to help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Here in Michigan, those protocols include mask requirements and increased disinfection of fitness equipment.
Most people do not have the financial means or the space to fit home fitness equipment. Hence, policy makers should be careful to keep fitness centers open, especially since the air quality caused by the fires prevents people from exercising safely outdoors.
There are certainly concerns about the safety of fitness centers. In the absence of a central repository for nationwide fitness center data, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association and MXM attempted to gather available data and gather information from thousands of fitness centers and millions of fitness center visits that showed COVID-19 this was not broadcast in fitness centers. More studies are certainly needed to analyze the effectiveness of the COVID-19 protocols in protecting public health and safety. Meanwhile, many fitness centers are taking the necessary precautions to do their part while doing an essential service to the public so that Americans can take care of their physical and mental health.
Dr. Kenneth P. Moritsugu was a former United States Associate Surgeon General and Acting Surgeon General.
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