Having a fitness community can help improve mental health, Katy fitness experts say

All Elite MMA locations are following COVID-19 protocol by checking attendees' temperatures before walking in as well as by disinfecting shoes, feet, and hands. (Courtesy of Elite MMA)
All Elite MMA locations are following COVID-19 protocol by checking attendees' temperatures before walking in as well as by disinfecting shoes, feet, and hands. (Courtesy of Elite MMA)

All Elite MMA locations are following COVID-19 protocol by checking attendees' temperatures before walking in as well as by disinfecting shoes, feet, and hands. (Courtesy of Elite MMA)

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Katy’s Yoga West Studios’ in-person classes, which are capped at 15 people, allow for 6.5-7 feet between attendees. (Courtesy of Yoga West Studios)
As 2020 has brought with it a global pandemic, a recession, a wave of social justice protests and a need to make numerous adjustments from the workplace to home, many are experiencing increased levels of anxiety and depression, according to experts.


For many, gyms can be a source of community and endorphins, both of which can contribute to healthy minds, health officials have said.

Gov. Greg Abbott authorized gyms to reopen at 25% capacity May 18, but many gyms in the Katy area have lost a large percentage of their clients due to job loss, fear of contracting the virus, increased demand of time at home with children or one of many other reasons.

Katy’s Yoga West Studios’ in-person classes, which are capped at 15 people, allow for 6.5-7 feet between attendees. Although the studio is offering online classes, by the end of July, it had lost about 50% of members and about 65% revenue, owner Kristin Abel said.

“[Individuals] should understand that this pandemic has forever changed the way [gyms] operate,” Abel said. “Classes will be smaller; prices will be higher; protocols will be enhanced. The good news is that this will make the experience even better, and more personal, for members looking for an amazing fitness experience.”

Mark Beecher, owner and founder of Hyena Muay Thai, a local martial arts gym in Katy, said he is also experiencing changes in his business.

“I’ve lost—and I’m still losing—students,” Beecher said. “The virus affected more people than just the people who got it.”

Beecher, who has practiced martial arts for 23 years and had COVID-19 early this year, said that being in shape is a great defense for illnesses.

He added that the endorphins released in the bodies of individuals when they exercise make people feel happy and can help improve their mental health.

Eric Williams, co-founder at Elite MMA, a martial arts gym with locations throughout the Greater Houston area, said though a vaccine and pharmaceuticals are needed, people can still use the tool of exercise to stay healthy and happy.

“We just have to make the time and commitment to make it our routine,” Williams said. “Humans are made up of mind and body, and not challenging one’s mind or body on a daily basis does not create a picture of health.”

Williams recommended joining a fitness community maintaining safe COVID-19 protocols that will offer individuals a supportive group to exchange fun dialogues with and encourage physical growth and mental peace.

All Elite MMA locations are following COVID-19 protocol by checking attendees' temperatures before walking in as well as disinfecting shoes, feet, and hands. Additionally, physical contact is limited during in-person classes. Those attending classes can choose to train individually or with a trusted partner.
“I have tons of fun joking around and supporting my teammates, and I get to prepare for the challenges of diseases all at the same time,” he added. “Picture looking up six months from now, and you are living with greater mental health, greater physical health, and being closer to [the healthiest version of yourself].”

The map below is not comprehensive.

By Nola Valente
A native Texan, Nola serves as reporter for the Katy edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She studied print journalism at the University of Houston and French at the University of Paris-Sorbonne in France. Nola was previously a foreign correspondent in Jerusalem, Israel covering Middle East news through an internship with an American news outlet.


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