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  • Writer's pictureJesse Liu

COVID-19, Fitness, and Mental Health

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

If you normally went to the gym or YMCA to workout on a frequent basis, but were suddenly forced to change that routine, then you would definitely fall in the category of people who were significantly impacted by COVID-19 in terms of fitness. I also fall in that category, as I used to lift weights or swim daily in college before COVID-19 spread to the United States in early 2020.

Unfortunately, even though gyms re-opened to a limited capacity a few months into the pandemic, I was still unable to go to the gym or YMCA because I lived with my parents, who were in their mid 50s.

It is evident that good physical health leads to good mental health, so I had to stay in good physical shape in order to stay in good mental condition. Once the gyms and YMCAs shut down, I had to immediately change my workout plan, by shifting from weights and swimming to calisthenics and running.

On the bright side, I live near a connected trio of parks, so I would have a beautiful, scenic path run on when the weather was nice. Also, in the mornings, I would complete some planks for a few minutes each.

In addition, everyday, because I still cannot go to the gym or YMCA until I am vaccinated, I complete a simple, eight to ten minute workout that does not require any weights. I call this workout “Jesse’s Quick Beast Mode Workout”. It mainly targets the pectoral (chest) and core muscles. Please note that you may adjust the intensity and reps of this workout to a level that makes you feel comfortable!

The workout is as follows:

Cycle 1: 50 pushups and then 200 raised leg crunches

30 second break:

Cycle 2: 50 pushups and then 200 bicycle kicks (100 bicycle kicks on each side)

1 minute break:

Cycle 3: 50 pushups and the 100 Russian pretzel twists (with or without a medicine ball)

30 second break:

Cycle 4: 50 pushups and 100 standard crunches

Despite running frequently in the summer, fall, and spring, doing planks to strengthen the core, and completing my aforementioned mini workout on a daily basis, I’ll have to admit that I lost at least several pounds of muscle, which got replaced by body fat. To my audience, I must say, don’t be discouraged if this same situation applies to you; this is NORMAL. When you have a decrease in intensity in a muscle building or cardio workout, which would happen when you are unable to lift weights ( if you do not have weights at home like me and they are sold out during a pandemic) or swim (swimming burns a tremendous amount of calories), then you should likely lose muscle and gain fat.

In addition, for people who are able to go to the gym (while wearing masks), their workout intensities would likely be slightly decreased as well. This is because working out while wearing a mask will likely result in less effective breathing, which will reduce blood and oxygen flow. Perhaps a solution to this issue is to plan longer workouts, which I acknowledge, may be difficult because gyms are supposed to be at limited capacity in most states still, and people can only have reserved time slots.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful and optimistic that once all Americans get vaccinated, then we will be able to gradually progress towards the normal workouts that we had before the pandemic. And according to President Biden, all Americans could be vaccinated by the end of May. That is just around the corner, and I cannot wait until I receive my vaccine!!

As I have heavily discussed in this blog the connection between COVID-19 and fitness, and a little bit about the connection between COVID-19, fitness, and mental health, I would also like to discuss the connection between COVID-19 and mental health specifically. Unfortunately, mental health has become a bigger crisis during COVID-19. And it has been noted that suicides have increased during the pandemic as well.

What I have to say is that there are plenty of mental health resources out there. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which is the largest grassroots mental health nonprofit in the United States, and where I have been volunteering since last year, is one place to start.

I am another resource; please feel free to reach out to me via my email if you have any questions on mental health.

If you would like to call a hotline about mental health or treatment options, SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-800-662-4357 is a great option. This hotline is helpful with locating treatment services in your area, and is open 24/7, 365 days a year, according to Or you could use SAMHSA’s website to find treatment in or near your zip code with the following link:

And if you are unfortunately having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 immediately. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are reading this blog, I hope it helps you with your fitness goals during the pandemic and promotes good mental health. Please stay safe, and thank you for reading my second blog! Feel free to subscribe via email at the bottom of the home page and share this blog site with friends and family. And please remember that good physical health leads to good mental health!

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I've been living with bipolar disorder since 2018 and I'm trying to overcome it by helping others with mental health issues/conditions!

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