Canadians mental health needs physical activity

Apr 30, 2023

Exercise is the most important action a Canadian can take to change their mental health, but many people do not know where to begin, or how to start again. “In the last three years there wasn’t just a pandemic: We had a “syndemic”, with correlating crises of COVID-19, chronic illness and inactivity. Rates of chronic illness and sedentary behavior were already at a crisis level – then we layered COVID-19 on top of it.  Through all of this, there is another thread: our declining mental health. Every Canadian has been challenged, and it is time to get our mental health back on track,” says Sara Hodson, President of FItness Industry Council of Canada and a leading medical fitness expert. 

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental health issue this year; “We know more than half of Canadians are inactive,” says Hodson. “The first step to improving mental health is an action step: We need to help Canadians get active again.”

Headlines around the world recently declared exercise should be considered a first treatment tool to reduce symptoms for depression and other mental health conditions. May 1-7 is Mental Health Week, an initiative from the Canadian Mental Health Association to shine a spotlight on community-based mental health care champions, programs and communities.

Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of Fitness Industry Council says that it is important for the fitness industry to be seen as a front-line initiative for helping people improve their physical AND mental health. “We have thousands of fitness facilities across the country that are being used as mental-health facilities – our members come to our gyms to reduce their stress levels, to experience social connectedness, to connect with a professional trainer and of course to release endorphins and feel-good chemicals to their brain. “Our experience shows that your trainer, your group fitness instructor become more than coaches – they become friends, accountability partners and confiant that help you pass thru tough time”

The theme of Mental Health Week 2023 is “My Story”, which is fitting as the stories that emerged in the pandemic from members of fitness facilities who could not exercise in a gym due to lockdown reported significant declines in their mental health.

For exemple, at LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic, many members fell out of their routine and quickly lost the gains they had made exercising.

Aurora, ON’s Louise Ross, who has lived with obesity most of her life, rejoined LIVE WELL after nearly 18 months of entirely sedentary behavior, and can’t believe the difference now. “I came back because I learned what it felt to feel good, and then I lost it. I remember what it felt like and I want it back. It isn’t muscle memory – it is wellness memory,” says Ross.

The benefits of exercise for mental health are backed by significant research and evidence: Exercise releases endorphins, or what are called “feel-good chemicals” to the brain which helps reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help to regulate mood. Exercise has also been directly linked to improved brain health and cognitive function, improved mood and self-esteem and a sense of purpose.

To arrange interviews with Sara Hodson, President of Fitness Industry Council of Canada, or
Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of Fitness Industry Council of Canada.

Please contact: Erin Phelan [email protected] 416-822-8621