Students’ health a priority during extended winter break

For many University of Manitoba students, the holiday season is traditionally filled with celebrations that revolve around social gatherings.Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with the usual social events that typically take place during the holiday break. Due to code-red restrictions, many Manitobans took part in much smaller celebrations with just their household members or by themselves.

The changes to the 2020 winter break also extend to the academic schedule, with winter term classes not set to start until Jan. 18, 2021.

For Taryn Ambrose, a U of M student and daily attendee of the Active Living Centre pre-pandemic, the inability to go to the gym has been detrimental to his grades and his health.

“I feel as if [my grades] took a dive,” Ambrose said. “The gym was a big part of my daily routine and not being able to go took a toll on my motivation and discipline.”

However, like his fellow U of M students, Ambrose has been forced to adapt to the current measures. With limited equipment, his workouts have been curated to work in his environment.

“I’ve been doing a lot more bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups […] and some weightlifting with the few things I have at home,” Ambrose said.

For Ambrose, the extended holiday break came at a good time, allowing him to focus on his health.

“I’m enjoying the extended holiday break,” he said. “I’ll definitely be using the time to continue on staying fit.”

Another Manitoban who cannot wait for fitness facilities to open again once COVID-19 cases have decreased is the owner of MORFIT Training Centre, Stuart Klassen.

“The regulations that have been put in place since COVID-19 [began] have affected our industry in many ways,” Klassen said. “Gyms have been asked to shut their doors, leaving many business owners and their employees without work and interrupting the regular fitness habits of a large percentage of Canadians.”

The 10-year fitness professional also co-owns a fitness equipment supplier, White Lion Athletics, and started a fitness app named Huddle Fitness Systems.

Klassen holds a bachelor of science degree in exercise science, is a certified exercise physiologist as well as a level-1 nutrition coach and holds multiple certifications with the Manitoba Fitness Council (MFC). He also works with MFC to train and certify new fitness trainers.

After celebrating the holidays, students that already have irregular diets may feel concerned about what they are eating. Klassen acknowledges this and recommends a patient approach to assessing one’s personal diet.

“If you feel there is room to improve your dietary habits, then read about different perspectives on nutrition and find what resonates with you,” Klassen said. “Scientific opinion in the nutrition industry changes all the time, so maybe don’t get too caught up in science.”

While the closure of gyms has posed a risk to the health of students, Klassen sees isolation as a greater threat and offered solutions to this issue.

“A drop in physical fitness is only one of the consequences of gyms closing and being in [code-red restrictions],” Klassen said. “Other aspects of health can also be compromised when we can’t socialize and contribute to our communities the way we used to. We know that exercise is not only beneficial for physical health, but for mental, emotional and spiritual health as well.”

Like many Manitobans, Klassen looks forward to the day fitness facilities open up again. He predicts that the transition to returning to gyms will be much easier than the adjustment to home workouts. He also encourages students to find ways to stay healthy wherever they may be.

“There will be many people that will stay with in-home training because of the convenience,” Klassen said.

“That will always remain a great option. Most gym-goers are eagerly looking forward to starting up again, so it should be a seamless transition.”

“Just keep in mind that if you haven’t been active for several months, take the first couple weeks easy, let the body re-adjust back to the demands of physical effort.”