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With the sedentary months and weight gain often come stiff joints and muscles, inflammation, anxiety, depression, etc. Others have described simply being afraid to return to the gym, some telling me that they cannot get past the fear of COVID and socializing with others again.
  • Dina Voigt

It is a well-known fact that regular exercise supports a healthy immune system. Due to the “emergence” of Covid, gyms in Suffolk County were ordered closed and were allowed to re-open in September 2020. The re-opening of gyms alongside the continued existence of Covid has presented many people with a conundrum.

Many people couldn’t wait and returned to the gym as soon as it re-opened. Others hesitated for many reasons, fear of getting COVID or spreading it to a more vulnerable family member. Some people have shared with me that they gained weight during the “shut down” and were embarrassed to come back! With the sedentary months and weight gain often come stiff joints and muscles, inflammation, anxiety, depression, etc. Others have described simply being afraid to return to the gym, some telling me that they cannot get past the fear of COVID and socializing with others again.

With everything going on in the world today, it is understandable that you may be avoiding or delaying your return to the gym. However, examining your reason(s) for not coming back can help you regain control of your overall health and well-being! If fear is your main reason, you should know that living in chronic fear has many health consequences.


Fear is an innate, primitive human emotion triggered by a perceived threat, whether real or imagined, physical or psychological. This basic survival mechanism signals our bodies to respond to the perceived danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential part of keeping us safe. However, chronic fear and living under constant threat can have serious health consequences, which we will explore below.

Fear prepares us to react to danger. Once we sense a potential threat, our body releases hormones to slow or shut down functions not needed for immediate survival (such as our digestive system) while at the same time sharpening functions that might help us survive (such as eyesight). Our heart rate increases, and blood rushes to muscles, enabling us to either run faster to flee the threat or stay and fight the threat (the fight or flight reaction response). Our body also increases the flow of hormones to an area of the brain known as the amygdala to help us focus on the presenting danger and store it in our memory. (UMN LD, MA, MEd)

Here are only a few ways that living in chronic fear can negatively affect your health:

  • It weakens our immune system and can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS and ulcers, as well as cardiovascular damage and decreased fertility.
  • It accelerates aging and can lead to premature death
  • It impairs the formation of long-term memories and causes damage to certain parts of the brain, making it more difficult to regulate fear. This, in turn, causes chronic anxiety and can foster a view of the world as scary.
  • It interrupts brain processes that allow us to regulate emotions, which negatively impacts our thinking and decision-making. This leads to impulsive reactions and leaves one unable to act appropriately.


  • Fatigue
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Clinical Depression.

So, whether the threats are real or perceived, the fear they invoke impacts our mental and physical well-being in more ways than you may be aware. In today’s world, it is more important than ever to strengthen your immune system and keep yourself healthy physically and mentally! As I stated earlier, it is a well-documented fact that regular exercise promotes a strong immune system and contributes to overall mental well-being.

If you have not yet returned to the gym and are not sure exactly why, ask yourself, “why haven’t I returned to the gym?” Answer honestly, and be sure to take a personal inventory of what you have been doing to keep yourself healthy and away from chronic fear. Do your research and make sure your decision is based on facts and that you are personally comfortable with it. Also, be sure you don’t mistake the effects of fear as safety or comfort.

You owe it to yourself to keep yourself healthy and happy both physically and mentally. If the one piece of the puzzle is that you just haven’t taken the final step to come back to the gym, remember this: at Fitness Incentive, it is more than a membership; it is a relationship. It is a state of mind; It is the CLEANEST gym…and always was. And even more so now. For example, you may be interested to know that among other techniques, we use UVC lights to sterilize the entire space – the same technology used in many Hospitals.

Here are some words from members who are so happy they decided to come back to the gym:

Janet E.: Since my retirement from public school teaching in 2014, Fitness Incentive has been an essential part of my weekly routines. When COVID changed that and other routines, FI did not miss a beat, immediately providing video workouts. Then, when the state permitted limited capacity, FI quickly organized a system of assigned spaces format classes, etc., as well as a sign-up protocol. And now that we are responsibly vaccinated, the friendly smiles at the front desk and throughout the gym have gotten us closer to our ‘normal’ routines. Thank you!

Dolores F.: Coming back to FI after Covid was a no-brainer. I couldn’t wait to come back and try to get back to my routines. The routine was definitely different due to Covid restrictions, but I made it work. It was so good to see friendly faces and have meaningful conversations with people outside my immediate family. I came back with a new injury (thanks, Covid) & needed one-on-one work with Dina. Post-Covid, I suffered from inflammation issues & now have piriformis syndrome. Dina helped get me back to where I could move without pain by targeting specific stretches to the area, as well as exercises to use my smaller muscles instead of the bigger bully muscles we all use to just get through the day. Coming back was the best decision for my health.

Maria C: There’s really no substitution for the real thing, live and in person. While I loved (and continue to love!) having Pilates instruction a click away, being back in a mat class, and particularly on the reformer, has really helped drive a sense of normalcy again. From getting the real physical challenge the reformer brings to just enjoying the social aspects of group class again—it’s been a tremendous boost to both my physical and mental health.

I hope that those of you reading this article are healthy and happy and doing what you need to stay that way, and if you are someone who has been contemplating coming back to FI, do your own research and do not let FEAR rule you! Below are some great resources. I hope to see you back real soon!!!!!!!

This is a great article discussing medical studies and information regarding the effect of EXERCISE on the immune system and Covid-19

This discusses the benefits of physical exercise for Mental health and well being

About the Author

Yoga Sensation

Dina Voigt

Dina Voigt is the Manager of Fitness Incentives Pilates and Yoga programs.  She is a PMA-certified Pilates trainer, a certified Yoga instructor, a Personal Trainer, a Group exercise instructor, and a Cycle instructor.

Contact her at with any questions or for further information.

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