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September 15, 2021 – Former US surgeon general Richard Carmona and ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie have one thing in common: they agree exercise is part of the covid solution.

While uncertainty remains, it is clear regular physical activity and fitness centres are part of the near and long-term covid resolution, Dr  Carmona says.

Beddie agrees. Unlike bars and restaurants, fitness centres provide affordable access to tangible physical and mental health benefits that combat isolation while giving people an outlet for their stress and anxiety.

He says he agrees with Dr Carmona that gyms which use best public health practices should stay open during covid.

Gyms that follow coronavirus mitigation strategies, such as enforcing masks, full social distancing and prompt cleaning, should stay open.

Aotearoa New Zealand has seen gyms close and open and close again during covid lockdowns and different alert levels, Beddie says.

“We the team of five million is adhering have to best public health practices, social distancing, masks and staying in home bubbles.

“When Kiwis take to a gym, they know we have really stepped up a level. There is plenty of staff the staff on board, a team approach, cleaning, social distancing, masking, sanitising, machines are separated much further apart for social distancing, and we have strict protocols.

“When best public health practices are applied, New Zealand should consider letting those facilities stay open in level four based on epidemiologic data, because people need that social connection.

“Mental health and physical health are connected inextricably. It is important for people to stay active during the pandemic, at any alert level.”

Dr Carmona recently told the Washington Times that large, well-ventilated fitness centres offer reliable, safe access to exercise, which is essential to strengthening the immune system and decreases the risk of comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes that can lead to severe covid outcomes.

A study from the American Psychological Association has found that 78 percent of respondents said the covid pandemic was a major stressor for them.

Of Puerto Rican descent, New York born and raised Dr Carmona released a landmark report during his 2002 and 2006 tenure on the health effects of second-hand smoke and was pivotal in the adoption of indoor-smoking bans.