COVID-19: Calgary YMCA launches ‘super helpful’ program to boost physical and mental health during pandemic

With so many recreation facilities and programs shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions, keeping active can be a real challenge.

“It’s taking a big toll on people’s mental health,” Calgarian Kiki MacDonald said. “So people are kind of feeling, like, unmotivated.”

But now there’s a new effort aimed at boosting people’s physical and mental health.

Read more: ‘A pandemic of its own’: How COVID-19 is impacting mental health

The YMCA has just launched the Lifting Spirits Challenge, offering a different activity every day for a month.

“Even though we are temporarily closed right now at the Y, we are still here for you,” the YMCA’s Hayley Banyard said. “There are classes like boot camp or yoga, virtual fitness classes — all streamed live on Facebook.”

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Participants don’t have be members of the YMCA to join the free online sessions, some of which are specifically aimed at boosting mental health.

Read more: Have an exercise ‘snack’ and improve your health: kinesiology researchers

“Take a moment for yourself and meditate or list three things you’re grateful for,” Banyard said. “Unplug for an hour and don’t look at your phone, and just really connect with nature.”

A Calgary psychologist says the new Y program could help make a difference for people feeling down amidst COVID-19 restrictions.

“People’s anxiety, depression and many other issues are increasing during the pandemic,” psychologist Rameen Kargger said. “Research has shown that gratitude actually changes our mindset, and exercise can really improve our mental health.”

Read more: 10 minutes of low-intensity activity boosts brain health in older adults: Western study

Many Calgarians who spoke with Global News on Friday said the Lifting Spirits Challenge is a positive step.

“Mental health, being as important as it is, having services like that to offer to people who need it is super helpful,” Om Kalaichelvan said.

The YMCA’s Lifting Spirits Challenge runs from Jan. 13 to Feb. 11, with more information available at

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“With yoga and a group fitness class, it’ll really help people focus their energy and get rid of some of that anxiety that’s building,” Tamara Molyneux said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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