Doctors are concerned about the effect of confinement on the physical health of the population. Many Quebecers move less since the closure of indoor sports facilities such as gyms. Voices are being raised to ask the Legault government to authorize free swimming alone or in a “family bubble”, even in the red zone.
The Dr François Simard, cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute, fears that the decrease in physical activity in the population will lead to an increase in cholesterol problems, high blood pressure and diabetes in the “medium term”.
“At the Epic center [centre de prévention cardiovasculaire], in the emergency room and in the hospital, we see a clear trend of people who have stopped doing certain activities for various reasons, ”says Dr.r Francois Simard. Among the reasons cited, the closure of gyms, the fear of falling outside in the winter or a preference for walking inside a shopping center rather than outside in the cold.
It is difficult for the moment to measure the real impact of confinement on the physical state of health of the population. Some European studies, conducted with small groups of professional athletes, have shown that their aerobic capacity has dropped as a result of the spring lockdown, says Dr.r Francois Simard.
“These are very preliminary data,” he explains. But it is a signal that confirms what we already know, namely that there are impacts on the physical condition of athletes two to four weeks after stopping training. The general population will not escape this phenomenon, according to him.
The cold, not for everyone
Quebecers can keep fit by participating in outdoor sports activities, such as walking, snowshoeing, skating and cross-country skiing, recalls Dr.r Francois Simard.
Since Monday, individual training in the gyms, free swimming and private swimming lessons are also possible in the orange zone (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspésie– Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Nord-du-Québec).
The Quebec Association of Sports and Exercise Physicians believes that swimming pools should also partially reopen in the red zone. Its president, the Dr Luc de Garie, receives more and more patients in pain and awaiting surgery for joint replacement. “If they could have access to the aquatic plateaus, it could help them, he thinks. Water decreases the load on the joints. “
In recent months, the Dr Luc de Garie claims to have seen “a lot” of patients whose osteoarthritis problem has worsened. “People suffer a lot more because they are less active,” explains the doctor. Mental health problems are also getting worse, he adds.
Sophie Schneider has developed back and shoulder pain since the swimming pools closed. “In teleworking, we are not always very well installed,” she notes.
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The 48-year-old Montrealer, who suffers from chronic anxiety, had been training in a gym for a year and a half when the pandemic began. “It did me a lot of good,” she said. When the training centers closed, she started swimming. “Not everyone likes to cross-country ski or be out in the cold. I hate winter ! “
Deprived of free swimming, Sophie Schneider recently bought a stationary bike. “I do a little bit of it while watching TV,” she said. She admits drinking a glass of wine more often than before to relax. She dreams of going back to the pool or the gym.
And she is far from the only one. “We receive more than ten calls and emails a day about the reopening of swimming pools and arenas,” says Benoît Simard, recreation director for the City of Sorel-Tracy, which serves, in addition to its 35,000 inhabitants, citizens of municipalities in its region.
The swimming pools play a local role, as do the municipal libraries, which reopened on Monday, according to the Association of Aquatic Managers of Quebec (ARAQ). “These are almost sanitized infrastructures because we are in an environment where we are bathed in chlorine,” argues its president, Lucie Roy. When you swim, your face is underwater. The risks of making droplets are very limited. “
The ARAQ believes that there is a way to safely offer solo or family bubble free swimming in the red zone, as well as private swimming lessons. It could be an additional activity during the school break, believes Lucie Roy. Distancing and hygiene measures can be controlled in the changing rooms, she assures.
According to the Quebec Swimming Federation, only one outbreak has occurred in its clubs in four months. “On average, there are 500 training sessions per day in Quebec,” recalls its general manager, Isabelle Ducharme.
The Dre Marie-France Raynault, head of the public health and preventive medicine department at the CHUM, believes that the reopening of public swimming pools “is perhaps an avenue to be considered”. Chlorinated water is “very effective against the virus,” she says. « In swimming pools, because of the chlorine, there is a lot of air renewal, she continues. The ventilation is excellent. “
The risk of the spread of COVID-19 is much greater in gyms, due to aerosols, reports Dr Luc de Garie. “When someone rides a treadmill or a stationary bike, they’re going to emit a lot of particles into the air,” he explains. It’s a danger and right now we can’t afford to do that. “
Kinesiologists want access to gyms