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SPECIAL REPORT: The benefits of staying active during the pandemic

News 11's Adonis Albright delves into the importance of physical and mental health during COVID lockdowns

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - It's now been a year since the coronavirus lockdowns have changed everything: from our routines, to our social lives. For a lot of us, the concept of staying on top of your mental and physical health on top of a pandemic can seem daunting.

According to Gina Botello, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC), staying active is more important than ever.

“When we are both mentally active and physically healthy, then we tend to enjoy our lives and our environment more.”

Botello said ever since the pandemic started, she's noticed a slew of changes in the patients that walk through her doors.

“We have seen a significant increase in depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, difficulty with mental focus especially in our youth, in our children and teenagers, as well as substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and unfortunately domestic violence as well… it’s just like a domino effect. The longer that you’re staying put and not utilizing the other parts of your body, the more that it can take a toll on your mental health.” 

But if you've been skipping the gym, it's not just your mental health you have to worry about. Doctor Ryan Zerr, a sports medicine physician at YRMC, said for those trying to jump back into the swing of things, there is a serious risk of physical injury.

“When you start having sports again after doing nothing for 6 months, then you have a lot of nagging injuries like hamstrings, and stress fractures and those kinds of things.” 

The good news is, staying active doesn't just have to mean doing exercise. For a lot of people, it can be as simple as picking up a new hobby.

Paola Robles was the social services director at the Life Care Center of Yuma, a local nursing home. When the coronavirus first came to the desert southwest, it was a harrowing experience that both her and her colleagues experienced.

“I remember coming home every day crying and thinking, I don’t know if I can go back… I think the hardest part is seeing those residents pass away. There were some residents that I felt, yeah they were sick, you know it was only a matter of time. But, there were other residents that still had life in them, and I felt that if it wasn’t for COVID, they would still be in the facility. If it wasn’t for COVID, I would still be in the facility, and that was a hard choice for me, that I had to put myself first to take care of myself.” 

After many sleepless nights and panic attacks, Paola knew she had to make a change. So, she found solace in singing her heart out with karaoke.

“I remember just singing it, just, the words spoke to me, and I felt liberated just getting all of that that I was feeling out on the mic.” 

Paola and her boyfriend have also been able to stay on top of their physical fitness by changing their garage into an at-home gym. She hopes her story will inspire others to break the stigma surrounding those who need help during these hard times, and shed light on the importance of mental health.

Now that the pandemic slowly seems to be winding down, Paola said she can't wait to keep doing what she loves.

“You know I actually already have a list of the clubs that I need to hit or the bars that do karaoke. I was just telling my boyfriend, there’s a bar that does karaoke, and right now they’re doing it safely, with precautions, but if I’m gonna’ do that, then I’m gonna go all out, I want everybody to come and I want my fans to clap for me and just encourage me and have a good time. You know, I think we all need it after what we’ve been dealing with.”

Special Reports / Yuma County Coronavirus
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Adonis Albright

Adonis Albright first found his passion in local news as a production assistant in San Diego after getting his Bachelor’s degree at San Diego State University. He further cultivated that passion by later diving into national news as an anchor and producer, before eventually moving to Yuma, Arizona to sharpen his reporting skills.

Adonis has an affinity for community-based reporting and always tries to get all sides of a story to best serve the community at large.

As a California native, he enjoys sunny weather and hitting the beach in his free time.

You can catch Adonis reporting on KYMA at 5 and 6 p.m., as well as behind the desk on Fox9 at 9 p.m.

If you have a great story idea, you can reach him at adonis.albright@kecytv.com.

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