Losing that ‘one ray of light’: How is the closure of gyms impacting Cardiff students’ mental health?

Feel like pure shit, just want the gym back


The gym is often seen as the place for the rugby and lacrosse teams to plan their next YOLO social, but for many it is also a place where they can plug in some headphones and escape the stresses of online uni. From the rush of endorphins you feel to the cheeky chicken wrap on the way home that you know you’ve earned, a session at the gym can start your whole day right.

Maintaining good physical health has been proven to help you stay mentally healthy too, so we asked Cardiff students how they were feeling now that the gyms have been taken away.

“gym closure is actually killing me”

Many of the students we spoke to were frustrated over gym closures, as they rely on them to keep both their physical and mental health in order. One student told The Cardiff Tab that the gym was “an outlet for anxiety”, with it being a place of escape during these difficult times.

One student, currently working on the front line, explained how the gym was their “wind down time” and how its absence was having a serious effect on their mental health. They further expressed anxiety about a potential knock-on effect on their patients.

Though most gym-goers were “gutted” by the new restrictions, students also acknowledged the necessity of the closures at this time.

“really hard feel sad all the time”

Many of the Cardiff students that we spoke to have found gym closures very difficult. One student expressed that the experience has been “stressful. I deal with a lot of body image issues and the thought of the gym keeps me up at night”. For many, the gym is a key part of their weekly routine, and having to abruptly change that is obviously hard. Creating a gym setting at home can be expensive and space-consuming, which basically rules out most students who rely on the income of part-time jobs they’ve lost in the pandemic, and live in cramped student houses.

One student who spoke to The Cardiff Tab said that it’s “frustrating that one can’t even workout to improve their mental health now”.  It was further said by a student that: “gym gives me mental stability”, so living without it is no easy feat.

“Lost all motivation to do uni work”

For some people, the gym was “the one ray of light” during these seemingly endless lockdowns. So naturally, this led to some students having “lost all motivation to do uni work”. This is hardly surprising now that most courses are fully accessible from the comfort of your bed.

Under these tight lockdown measures, people can exercise through home workouts, runs, walks, or going for a cycle. However, many students spend a long time creating a gym routine that is perfect for them, and it’s not easy to change this with the drop of a hat. Not to mention that it’s bloody freezing outside, which is hardly motivating for a nice cycle through the park.

“Home workouts all the way!”

There is, however, a temporary replacement for the doom and gloom that avid gym-goers are currently going through. Those who have managed to get into an exercise routine at home have sung its praises, particularly now that gyms are closed. Even though some have had to “run in the rain”, many people seem to have gone “back to home workouts” and are investing in equipment, perhaps never to return to the gym.

As difficult as it is to find motivation to workout at home, once you begin you may enjoy the advantages!

Long gone will be the days of trekking 15 mins to get a dumbbell at 9am, only to find that some weapon three times the size of you is modelling with it for an insta post.

During this pandemic, the gym has been the thing that has got me out of bed each morning to try and start my day right. I had only started going a few weeks prior, but after too many days spent watching lectures in my onesie with dominos on its way, I started going more regularly. The fears I had of the gym quickly disappeared when I realised that nobody was there for anyone but themselves, and the satisfaction each time I upped a weight or finished a cycle soon helped me understand why.

I felt so much better mentally after having been for a month or so, with fewer sleepless nights and slightly less sulking about the restrictions. I can’t recommend staying active enough, especially at home, as – if it’s right for you – even a few minutes of exercise per day may help to look after your mental health during this difficult time.

Overall, it seems like Cardiff’s students are pretty gutted about gym closures, along with many of the British population who are living in the same conditions. However, it also seems like they recognise that these measures are in place to protect the most vulnerable in society, and in order to make things safer, the gyms must remain closed temporarily.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

Hitting the gym and going for a pint: what Cardiff students are doing after lockdown

What does your Covid-safe study space say about you?

Love in lockdown: how Cardiff students have dated during a pandemic