The Dangers Of Abandoning Exercise During The Pandemic

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ATHENS, Ohio —In the midst of a global pandemic, Americans are now even less likely to get out and hit the gym.

With the fear of coronavirus ever present, the question that many Americans have is if taking a few months away from the gym due to the pandemic is really that detrimental to individual health and fitness?

A preliminary study posted in Cambridge Open Engage, an open research platform, found that Americans are exercising less than usual during the pandemic, and sitting and looking at screens more.

Study co-author Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, said that even after the nation returns to normal, people who took time off exercising will have trouble returning to their previous levels of activity.

“It is incredibly difficult to get somebody who is not already active to become active,” Meyer said in an interview with Time Magazine. “Now what we’re seeing is people who used to be active are not being active. The question is, will they return to their previous levels of activity?”

More Obesity – Less Activity Nationwide

In a time where a gym membership is as affordable as a couple burgers from a fast food chain, Americans are avoiding the gym in favor of other activities they do in their free time.

In a study from the Centers for Disease Control in 2018, researchers found the percentage of Americans who met the 2008 federal guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities during leisure-time physical activity.

The study found that only 27% of men and 19% of women met these guidelines. With less than a quarter of the population meeting physical activity standards, it is not surprising the obesity rate in America has raised 12 percentage points since 2000.

Ping Recreation Center houses a full weight room, track, basketball, racquetball and volleyball courts and rooms for classes.

Now, combined with the overhanging gym deterrent that is coronavirus, Americans will be working out at an all-time low while obesity is at an all-time high.

In Athens – A Silent Ping

For Ohio University students and Athens locals, Ping Recreation Center is the Mecca of physical fitness. If you were to walk through the doors at any time last year you would be met with crowds of people all fighting for mirror space, basketball courts teeming with people of all ages and the occasional adrenaline junkie 25 feet in the air on the rock wall. Now, the scene has changed.

Activity on the rock wall and basketball courts has ground to a stop. Certain areas are blocked off by caution tape. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the masks adorning the faces of everyone entering the building.

The building is never truly dead, there are always at least a few regulars putting in some hard work. Jack Korsok, an exercise physiology student at Ohio University noted the various reasons that people may not be coming in the same numbers they once did.

When there’s nice weather, students flock to the bike path which runs across much of the campus.

“Basketball brings in a lot of people, yoga brings in a lot of people, volleyball, rock climbing …” Korsok said. “Wearing a mask is tough for some people, I know there’s a Planet Fitness down the road that a lot of people also go to just because they don’t have to wear a mask there.”

To Korsok, at least, hope is not lost for students who want to stay active, even if their plans do not include going to the gym.

“Maybe physical activity is down a little bit, but when it is nice outside you see a lot of people on the bike path. I see a lot of people on Mill Fields running around,” Korsok said. “I think it is more of an incentive to get outside with the pandemic.”

Two other students gave responses on opposite sides of the spectrum. Benjamin Wortsman stressed the importance of getting to the gym and described it as irreplaceable.

Ben Wallace said it just isn’t worth the risk for something that can be done anywhere there is a little bit of space and motivation.