2020 Games Athlete Pete Shaw Urges Government to See Fitness as Integral in Fight Against COVID-19

December 18, 2020 by
Courtesy of Pete Shaw:
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2020 Canadian CrossFit Games athlete and affiliate owner Pete Shaw has initiated a campaign to get municipal, provincial and federal policymakers and health officials to work in collaboration with Ontario gyms to keep gyms open and help fight COVID-19. 

The details: Shaw rounded up 15 Ontario-based doctors, who signed a letter he sent to more than 200 politicians and health officials across the province — including Premier Premier Doug Ford and Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot — urging them to recognize that keeping fitness facilities open is crucial, not just for physical and mental health, but for improving metabolic health critical to fight COVID-19.

  • “We hope to push the government and public health (officials) to work more collaboratively with leaders in the fitness industry…In doing so, we also hope that it will promote to Ontarians and Canadians that metabolic health and physical fitness are important components of the COVID-19 strategy,” said Shaw, a member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar staff and co-owner of CrossFit NCR in Ottawa, Ontario.
  • He added: “There’s more and more evidence that shows that metabolic health influences disease severity of COVID-19, and fitness facilities can play a key role…But they’re not even talking about it, so we want to create awareness around the subject because we can work together to keep the community safe.”

Notable: In Canada, Alberta is the only province who has made their COVID-19 comorbidity data public. It shows that 76 percent of those who have died from the disease had multiple comorbidities that are “often linked to underlying metabolic health,” Shaw said. 

One big thing: Though people understand that chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, obesity and Type 2 diabetes put you at a greater risk of succumbing to COVID-19 — and that fitness and nutrition play a role in reversing these chronic conditions — but what has been missing from the greater dialogue is how quickly people can improve their metabolic health through diet and exercise, Shaw said. 

  • “You can actually improve your metabolic health quickly, within weeks in some cases, so why aren’t we talking about what is right in front of us?” he asked rhetorically.
  • In light of this, one Ottawa-based ICU physician is pushing for the pandemic to be the catalyst that motivates us to improve our metabolic health.

Real Life Evidence: In February 2020, we featured the Ryan Ferns Healthplex, a gym in West Virginia who partnered with doctors and a health insurance company to fund a fitness and nutrition program for people with Type 2 diabetes. In a matter of months, 20 people who joined the program had put their diabetes into remission and were taken off their insulin.

So far, limited progress for Shaw: Shaw has been met with a lot of “ambivalence,” he said, since sending his letter to 200 recipients in the middle of November. “Not much urgency,” he added. 

  • That being said, he has received responses from a handful of City councillors and MPPs, who said they have been fighting for the same thing as he is, and said they would forward his letter to the Health Minister. “The more support we can gain, the more likely we will get this on the Health Minister’s radar,” Shaw said.

The big picture: For the message to get there on a broader level, Shaw wants to “garner more physician support,” to influence policymakers so that they recognize the importance of fitness on metabolic health.  

  • “We need the government to embrace us as a tool to fight this virus and improve people’s health,” he said. 

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