Closing in on 11 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are worried for children’s mental health. With exercise being linked to better mental health, one local gym is seeing an increase in personal training demand for teenagers.
“I see kids going from ‘here’ to ‘here’ in just a matter of months,” said Mike Robinson, the owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo. Robinson says he has seen a surge of parents bringing their teenagers in for personal training because they fear the mental health of their children has been negatively affected by the lack of overall movement throughout the pandemic.
“It’s all about consistency. The more they stick with it, the more they see the physical benefits and start seeing the emotional and mental capacity increase as well,” said Robinson.
Julie Smith, a junior at San Luis Obispo High School, runs track for the Tigers, but like many others throughout the country, she missed the entire year of athletics. She says having the ability to stay active and train is helping her keep a positive mindset.
“When I’m at home, I get a little down because it’s a lot of sitting around. I feel unproductive. When I take time out of my day to go to the gym, it gets me physically active, but it also helps me strengthen my mental health by challenging myself and pushing myself,” said Smith.
Doctors say depression, anxiety, and lack of self-esteem in teens can stem from a variety of reasons; lack of exercise and comparing themselves with others on social media are just a couple, but physical activity can help reduce the effects of those illnesses.
“If you have a tendency toward any of those, in terms of a mental health illness, exercise is crucial to help mitigate that. It’s not all about medication, it’s part of that overall health that you need to maintain to avoid those,” said Dr. Cindy Holt, a pediatric hospitalist for Sierra Vista. “When your overall mental health is more balanced and healthy and you have this more positive outlook, that’s going to reflect in your self-esteem.”
“Their minds are like sponges right now. They love the fact that they can come in and actually learn what they can do for their body,” said Robinson.
Julie’s mom, Kathy Schwanitz, thinks taking her daughter to train with a professional will go beyond the immediate benefits.
“It’s a lifelong habit she’s learning by doing this,” said Schwanitz. “Being able to focus on herself and see herself get strong physically and mentally, it really does boost her up to know that she can do it.”
MZR Fitness is offering free fitness assessments for all high school students at San Luis Obispo High School. If you're interested, email Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.