Wear a mask, get a vax, part 2

This is part two of the FIFI blogger group’s current dialogue about anti-vaxxers/anti-maskers in the fitness community. Part 1 was Cate’s rant, published this morning.

So this happened: Quebec city gym linked to more than 400 cases of COVID-19, with one death possibly coming out of that cluster.

This comes just as we as a blog community are exploring anti-mask and anti-vax stances within the fitness community. I captured my own perspective about it this morning; here I’m sharing the voices of some of the rest of the FIFI bloggers.

Diane set the tone by reminding us that collective and communal action is a natural instinct, not confined to humans:

I listened to an interesting piece this weekend on gorillas caring for orphaned babies. If an 800 lb silverback male can care lovingly for a toddler gorilla, surely humans can do the same to ensure survival of the community. Because most individual humans don’t survive without their community.

Christine added to this:

There’s a great anecdote about anthropologist Margaret Mead that really reflects my feelings on how to be part of a community.

When asked about the first signs of civilization, Mead didn’t reference leaps in technology, she said that the first sign of civilization was a well-healed femur (thigh bone) because it was an indication that someone took care of an injured member of their group and helped them survive until they could take care of themselves. She went on to say that we are at our best when we help others.

I’m determined to be part of that kind of civilization, that kind of community. I’m not here to prove my individuality, I’m part of a team of people trying to make sure we’re all okay.

Being part of that community, for us, is about actually soldiering on through our own discomfort to protect both ourselves and others. Martha said:

I’m claustrophobic and do not like masks (can’t even bear facials) but I wear mine regardless because the science is there to support mask wearing along with social distancing, handwashing/sanitizing, and short interactions. I am tired of anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers riding on the coattails of people like myself who assume the small risk vaccines may pose for small groups of the population but do it anyway to create herd immunity. It’s not a personal choice.

Christine added:

I understand that there are people with allergies or trauma that can’t wear masks or get vaccinated and I’m not trying to make them feel bad. I consider my mask and vaccination part of the overall plan to keep those people safe.

Nicole said the same thing: Short answer: I’ll wear a mask and I’ll get vaccinated because I think we are all in this together and I’m not willing to risk someone else’s life because something is slightly inconvenient for me.

That short answer for Nicole came from a longer, thoughtful analysis of the relationship between fitness, fitness communities, science and her recognition of her own role.

I believe in fitness. I believe it makes me significantly more mentally and physically healthy in important ways.

I also believe that I improve my overall well-being by being conscious of the food I eat.

I believe in the community I’ve been part of over the years, working out in small gyms. We may have different backgrounds, different sizes, different political beliefs. But, we generally see the best in each other through shared movement combined with sweat.

I really feel for the small business owners who have been most affected by the pandemic. Gyms have been especially hard hit. It hurts to see people I care about struggling and filled with anxiety about their passion and livelihoods.

But, seeing some of these people fall prey to the conspiracy theorists and “wellness truthers” is more upsetting. I can’t feel anything but anger when I see some people share memes about taking Zinc over vaccines, or suggesting that the pandemic has been made up, when I can also see 47 year old teachers dying from Covid-19. When health professionals are crying out of exhaustion and frustration at the reactionary tactics used by our government.

I believe in good science. I believe in supporting health professionals working their asses off to get us to the other side of the pandemic. I don’t support suggestions that fitness is a substitution for vaccines or that closing a business is as bad as losing your loved one to this virus.

An immunologist friend of mine emphasized this point even further today:

There’s a commercial machine linked to fitness that promulgates a slew of untrue beliefs about the immune system, how it works, and how best to help it along. As an immunologist, this specific kind of nonsense particularly irks me. Not long ago I read the medical literature on the topic of yoga and the immune system; I found only a handful of papers that had measured immunity in any meaningful way after people had devoted time to yoga, the outcomes were contradictory, and the measures employed easy to do but only tangentially linked to real immunity. So when a newly qualified yoga teacher boldly asserted that yoga “boosts the immune system”, and when I raised a question was told that “studies have shown”, I actually read the studies. Studies have not, in fact, shown.

Sam reminded us that this kind of faux science has a huge price on the most vulnerable people in our communities:

I’m getting super frustrated by a line of argument that I keep hearing during the pandemic, sometimes in the context of masks, sometimes in the context of vaccination, and sometimes in the context of opposition to closing gyms. It’s that fitness is more protective than any of the other measures–masks, vaccination, closures–and that fit healthy people shouldn’t pay the price that the old, the obese, and those with underlying health commissions are imposing on society.

First it’s just false! Lots of healthy fit people end up in hospital sometimes with long lasting post covid effects. Second, disability and age aren’t matters of personal responsibility. We’ll all age no matter how many push ups we can do. But third, it doesn’t matter. This is a matter of collective responsibility. Even if you’re not at risk, others are and you ought to care about that!

How are you navigating this tension in the fitness world?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is also very tired of lockdown, but is doing her part.