Events such as R U OK? day are an important reminder to check in with friends, family and loved ones during these uncertain times, but looking after your own mental health and wellbeing can be as simple as regular exercise according to peak industry organisation Fitness Australia, who is calling for fitness facilities to be classified as an essential service.

Fitness Facilities Are Essential In Our Communities

CEO Barrie Elvish said exercise and access to a range of fitness options is vital in boosting mood, concentration and managing depression and anxiety while also improving cardiovascular and physical health and improving immune function.

“We all understand the important role exercise plays in keeping us physically healthy, but it is also vital for our mental health, especially during lockdowns, job losses and uncertainty as a result of COVID-19,” Mr Elvish said.

“Many people in our community rely on access to a gym, fitness facility or organised training to keep their regular exercise consistent and on track. Without access to these facilities or options, people are struggling with their mental health. This is especially important in Victoria where national support services are seeing increased demand for their services.”

“In our industry many Fitness Australia Personal Trainers have contacted me expressing their concerns for clients they are working with who need regular exercise to manage their condition.”

Mr Elvish said important data from Beyond Blue and Lifeline showed people were struggling to manage their mental health in isolation.

“Calls to Beyond Blue’s support services have risen substantially during COVID-19. There have also been more than 600,000 visits to their online Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service and more than 900,000 engagements on their online forums,” Mr Elvish said.

“During the week beginning 7 September, 2020 Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention hotline broke the organisation’s 57-year record, with 3,326 calls on Tuesday – a 30% increase on the same day last year.“

“Overall, Lifeline has seen a 22% increase in calls originating from Victoria when the current Stage 4 lockdown was announced.”

Mr Elvish said unless urgent action was taken to reclassify fitness facilities as an essential service and get them safely open sooner, the government would be left with a costly, long-term problem as the mental and physical health of more Victorian’s continues to increase.

“Exercising, maintaining a regular fitness regime, doing yoga or even building strength with weights are all positive preventative activities Australians do to maintain their overall health. The cost and long-term impact an extended absence of these will have on our economy will be significant,” Mr Elvish said.

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