The duo behind BodyBreak wants you to 'keep fit and have fun' after the pandemic. And this time it's personal

The pair – best known for their 90-second television spots in the late 80s and early 90s – says it recognizes the toll COVID-19 has taken on Canadians, both physically and mentally and is releasing new workouts to get people moving again.

Pair behind 90s TV fitness spots is back with tips on how to recover from physical and mental toll of COVID

Hal Johnson (left) and Joanne McLeod (right) behind BodyBreak have released a new “Action Break” clip in hopes of getting people exercising. (Submitted by Action Alkaline Water)

More than 30 years after the launch of the iconic Canadian fitness segment BodyBreak, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod are back with a new workout encouraging people to get up and move after two years of the pandemic.

The pair ⁠— best known for their 90-second television spots in the late 80s and early 90s ⁠— says it recognizes the toll COVID-19 has taken on Canadians, both physically and mentally.

"The pandemic really had us all kind of out of whack … the routines were off, the uncertainty. We felt on edge," said McLeod, who lives in Oakville with Johnson.

"And whenever you feel that way or have any kind of anxiety, the first thing that kind of seems to go by the wayside is the foundation — your exercise, your eating habits."

The duo  is now sharing the importance of exercise for mental health, tips on how to stay active while working at home and monitoring your activity. For Johnson and McLeod it's a message that's personal: two years ago a health scare took Johnson to hospital.

Pandemic's toll

Over the past two years some studies have highlighted the link between high levels of stress and anxiety and decreased exercise during the pandemic.

A recent analysis of 15 studies found that exercise, even in small amounts, can lower stress and reduce anxiety.

The pair ⁠— famous for their 'Keep Fit and Have Fun!' slogan ⁠— is releasing new workouts that it says it hopes will energize people who might be sitting for long periods of time while working at home and help reduce stress.

A jogger runs past Lake Ontario on Toronto's Lakeshore Jun. 28, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"Basically, we've been working from home for the last 34 years. So this is an area we're really familiar with," said McLeod.

"These really short workouts are going to encourage people just to get up, move, increase the blood flow, improve your digestive system."

The pair says it's a balancing act of nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise but also emphasized the importance of listening to your body and monitoring it.

Two years ago while playing hockey, Johnson got an alert on his smart watch ⁠— that monitors his heart rate ⁠— that told him he needs to go to the hospital.

"So I was off the ice. I went and got changed. I went to the hospital and they said, 'Oh, your heart's in atrial fibrillation,'" said Johnson.

Untreated atrial fibrillation can put you at a higher risk for stroke and heart failureA few weeks later, Johnson returned to the hospital for a procedure to return his abnormal heartbeat to a normal rhythm.

"I was fortunate that way."


As the pandemic wanes, for Johnson and McLeod ⁠— it's about bringing back routine that improves both physical and mental health.

Johnson suggests incorporating exercise with socialization ⁠— something that many have been deprived of by working at home.

A screenshot of a late 80s/early 90s BodyBreak segment on nutritious snacks. (Youtube/BodyBreak Hal and Joanne)

"If you have the opportunity, even if you're working at home, to say, you know what, I'm going to meet somebody for lunch or I'm going to meet somebody for a walk … I think that's the biggest thing."

"We've always felt that if we get one person off the couch, we've been successful," said Johnson.

With files from Patrick Swadden