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On Tuesday, December 16 Axios' Kendall Baker hosted a conversation on how the pandemic-enforced lockdown has affected fitness and mental health, featuring former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and Long Beach, Calif. Mayor Robert Garcia.

Richard Carmona advocated for gyms that follow strict coronavirus mitigation strategies to be allowed to stay open, and discussed the importance of physical fitness on mental wellbeing.

  • On keeping gyms open: "I think when those best public health practices can be applied, we should consider letting those facilities stay open when possible based on epidemiologic data. People need that social connection...mental health and physical health are connected inextricably."
  • On the connection between physical and mental health: "We should do everything we can to stay connected and continue moving. It helps our immune system as well as our mind and our body, and helps to offset mental health problems like depression."

Mayor Robert Garcia unpacked the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and small business closures on the fitness industry, and highlighted Long Beach, California's $5 million fund for gyms and other personal care businesses.

  • On the financial impact on gyms: "This is an industry that's been hit very, very hard...[the fund] will go directly to these gyms so they can bridge those months they've been closed on the rent, or have some dollars to back up get started. It's critical that we support them."

Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau, who discussed the challenge of gyms being classified with other hospitality industry venues like clubs and bars during lockdowns and the importance of fitness as a part of public health.

  • "I think, unfortunately, we're lumped in with bars and restaurants and even movie theaters. We really need to get ourselves out of that arena and make sure they look at us as really part of wellness, mental health, and physical health as well. But it's been a struggle. But I think the data we're starting to produce now, showing them how we operate—they've really started to listen."

Thank you Planet Fitness for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Jan 16, 2021 - Health

CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic

Robert Redfield. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Outgoing CDC director Robert Redfield told NPR on Friday that he was proud of the agency's response to the coronavirus pandemic and that he disagreed with his incoming successor's conclusion that the "gold standard for the nation's public health — has been tarnished."

Why it matters: The CDC has faced sharp criticism throughout its nearly year-long response to the coronavirus pandemic over several issues, including some of its messaging and guidance, which has been described as inconsistent and confusing.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.