Illawarra gyms are transitioning to online classes and forums to keep people connected during COVID-19 restrictions.

With a large number of community members relying on these facilities for socialisation, many experts are concerned about the negative effect isolation may have on mental health.

Curtin University of Technology researchers Gillian Street, Ray James and Gayley Cutt, released a statement about the connection between health and exercise.

“People who participate in sports clubs and organised recreational activity enjoy better mental health, are more alert, and more resilient against the stresses of modern living,” the statement read.

“Socially supported physical activity is shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.”

Facilities such as Base Health & Fitness are providing a wide range of online classes and personalised home workout regimes for their members.

Gym owner Taylor Atkins said it was important to maintain all aspects of health during isolation.

“We have created a private Facebook group to keep everyone accountable, mini-challenges and pre-recorded classes to keep people active and motivated. Our live classes run daily and are our most popular so far,” she said.

“We all know that movement makes us feel better, it releases our ‘happy hormones’, reduces tension and can help clear the mind. So, in a time of uncertainty physical activity and social connections should be foundations of our work from home routine.”

She said the online communities provide a source of support for both individuals and businesses who are experiencing pressures during COVID-19.

“We are seeing clients chatting before and after the class about their new routines and giving advice about problems they are experiencing in this crazy time which is beneficial for everyone,” Ms
Atkins said.

“Our clients have been super supportive and are giving us hope that our little business baby will make it out the other side.”

Research shows many individuals who have, or are at risk of developing a mental illness, are more likely to experience mental health issues during periods of forced isolation.

Keturah Sheen, an organiser and participant of online exercise, said the forums are her primary form of addressing socialisation due to COVID-19 restrictions. Sheen said these groups are vital in maintaining her mental health, “being part of an online community has given me a massive amount of support and motivation for exercise, but the best part for me is not feeling completely alone and anxious in such unpredictable times”.