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LETTER: Keeping local gyms closed puts many in a 'dark place'

Owner of CrossFit Orillia makes impassioned plea to health minister to reopen gyms; 'We need health, we need caring,' urges letter writer

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor. This is an open letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott from local Cross Fit gym owner Matt Spencer, imploring the minister to allow gyms to open.
My name is Matt Spencer and I am a Health Care Professional.

I separate health and care because they’re uniquely independent of each other. I care about my community’s health.

I am the owner/operator of CrossFit Orillia. You may have heard of CrossFit, you probably know a friend who does it, or a friend of a friend. Perhaps you’ve heard of the CrossFit Games even. This isn’t a discussion about CrossFit, this is a discussion about people and health.

I am here today to implore to you the idea the exercise is not frivolous. It is not a luxury. It’s not the same as a haircut. I understand we all have different lenses through which we see our needs and priorities, but when someone forgoes a haircut, they have different coloured roots coming in.

When someone forgoes exercise, their triglycerides start to rise.

When someone doesn’t get their nails done in a while, they have chipped paint. When someone doesn’t exercise their hemoglobin A1C goes up.

The inability to get a pedicure does not put a strain on the taxpayers, deteriorating health does.

When someone doesn’t get to exercise with people they truly care about, their mental health suffers.

Without an outlet, without the stress relief, without the smiles and encouragement and positivity that happens in not just CrossFit gyms, but all “micro gyms” across Ontario daily, then people are pulled further and further into a dark place - adark place that a lot of people are enduring right now.

Let’s discuss this in the context of COVID-19. I don’t need to throw stats at you, but when it’s publicly known that well over 95% of all COVID-19 deaths are a result of, associated to or related to underlying health conditions like chronic disease, we cannot ignore this number.

This is one of the only statistics that is constant across the globe.

Chronic disease is a lifestyle malfunction. It is caused by poor lifestyle choices in both diet and activity level. The good news is the intervention is also lifestyle. But it’s not enough to tell people to go for a walk or go ride a bike, they need help. The people of Ontario need direction, they need support, they need help.

You know where they find that help? It’s not from me. It’s from the people they exercise with on a daily basis. It’s from the text they get that says “let’s go to the gym today.” Which leads to “let’s get salad for lunch after” Positivity stacks on top of positivity.

Instead now what we are seeing is “I’m stressed, let’s have wine.” “Let’s order pizza.”

It would be ignorant of me to try and know your experiences during this whole crisis. I know, that at the end of the day, you are doing the best you can, with the information that is given to you. But please, when I ask you to consider the fact that simply looking at health as “the absence of disease” you’re overlooking a large part of all the other pieces of health.

In fact, one would argue that perhaps the result of this lockout will be an increase in high blood pressure, an increase in triglyceride levels, an increase Type 2 Diabetes.

It was my understanding that the initial scope of the lockdown was to not overwhelm the health-care system in the province. A casual local survey shows that this indeed has been successful. But a pebble in a pond can cast far reaching ripples, and we might see the health-care system overwhelmed soon with suicides, with antidepressants, with metformin and insulin purchases, with statins, the list goes on.

Is it health care? Or is it sick care?

Additionally, if there is concern for a second wave, each day, each hour we keep people away from the resources available to them to improve their health NOW is a day lost. It’s an opportunity LOST. We need to start preparing immediately. For the sake of the people of Ontario and for the sake of the health-care system.

Please allow me to open my facility to start providing those services so we can truly work on the public’s health.

Finally, I leave you an excerpt from the modern version of the hippocratic oath:

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”

I work in the Health CARE system. I am ready. I am ready to be overrun. The people of Ontario can wait no longer, we need health, we need caring.

Matt Spencer, CCFT
Certified CrossFit Trainer