Fitness expert Leroy Mapp has some key ideas

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As we dive into the latter half of fall and prepare for winter, the pending cold weather presents more of a downer than usual, because of everything that’s going on.

Whether you’ve been using trips outside for exercise while gyms are closed, or to safely catch up with mask-wearing friends, that’s all about to end — which is not great for mental health during these stressful times.

Turns out that’s especially bad news for millennials, who are worse off than any generation before them. According to a 2017 report, people in this age group were living at about 95% of their optimal health. And Philly millennials turn to substance abuse more than in other cities.

But there are ways to make it better…right?

If you have ideas, you could get cash money to make them happen.

A project called the Well City Challenge is looking for new solutions to the issue of degrading millennial health in Philadelphia. Run by the Economy League and backed by Independence Blue Cross, applications are being accepted now through Nov. 20. Winners will be awarded $50k in prizes, with another $50k available for seed funding.

One of the solutions we already know about: adopting good eating and exercise habits. That’s the idea behind Billy Penn’s Instagram Live series, “Preparing for Winter: Staying Healthy with Food & Fitness,” hosted by this writer.

Earlier this week, viewers tuned in to BP’s Insta page for the first edition, an interview with millennial fitness expert Leroy Mapp, founder of the wellness and lifestyle brand Gorilla Power.

Here’s three things we learned.

Use exercise to clear your head

If you’re cooped up in a serious WFH mode like many of us are, it’s vital to find ways to shake free of the daily grind. Especially for millennials, and extra especially for millennials of color, who’ve been hit the hardest by stressors like the coronavirus pandemic, social justice movements, and unemployment.

Luckily, exercise is here to help — and clearing your mind can be achieved by getting your body moving.

Working out releases endorphins that help stabilize your mood and make you feel good, Mapp noted. Instead of tiring you out, it actually gives you more energy to get through the day. Said Mapp: “The vitality of exercising leads to a better vital life.”

Making time to work out at home also means you’re pulled away from the endless news cycle and other distractions.

“If you have your workout ready to go, maybe put your phone away and tell yourself this is your time dedicated to you working out,” Mapp suggested.

It’s effective to work out in short bursts

Busy days are the norm, and time can easily slip away if you’re sitting at the table typing or doing any other WFH activity.

Heard that you shouldn’t stay sitting down for too long? Turn those breaks into mini workouts and you’ll feel the positive effects, Mapp said. You don’t have to set aside a whole hour at a time. That also means you’re less likely to quit part way through a routine.

“To keep your attention span going, I would suggest people work out in shorter increments,” said Mapp.

“If you do a good 20-minute burner during noontime, then you get off work and do another 20 or 30-minute burner, you’re really burning calories. In your house…the key is to break your workouts down.”

Do lots of reps using just your body, no equipment needed

Don’t worry, everything you need to complete a full workout at home is already there: just you!

Although there’s plenty of ways to take advantage of exercise equipment, most just need your mind and body. Mapp recommends just using your body weight to build and gain muscle. It’ll work as long as you do multiple repetitions, adding actions like high volume squats, lunges, push ups.

“It’s because of the tension release of so many repetitions that causes your muscles to tear and break down,” said Mapp. “The gravity force against your body will get you stronger.”

Gorilla Power: More than just workouts

It was a scare with being diagnosed as pre-diabetic that led Mapp to change his lifestyle, he said.

He started working out, and then found that going beyond weight-lifting was even better. He got into yoga, and was so inspired by whole body wellness that he founded Gorilla Power.

The company, in which Mapp shares the responsibility of founder and CEO with Rian Watkins, promotes self improvement and health through a variety of mediums, including clothing, music and snacks.

After he adopted a plant based diet, Mapp began to research healthy food, and that led to the creation of Gorilla Power’s Fuel Bars. The snacks include organic ingredients and are made fresh to order in flavors of peanut butter crisp and chocolate chunk.

“‘Everything that makes you feel better’ is what we had in mind to include in our brand,” Mapp explained.

Have an idea for a company or project with a similar mission? Submit an application to the Well City Challenge. Nov. 20 is the deadline.

Sakeenah Benjamin (she/her) is the Philly Quizzo co-host for Billy Penn and helps run BP's Instagram. She is also  WHYY’s Public Information Coordinator, where she handles the Street Team and influencer...