Fitness Over 40: Frontline Health Worker Shares Benefits of Yoga

Sarah Petrunak

| 2 min read

Daria Pernik-Mertz balances on her yoga mat in an outdoor park.
Yoga has so many benefits. From strength and flexibility to stress relief. It has been particularly helpful to frontline health worker Daria Pernik-Mertz.
It can work wonders for physical and mental health, says Pernik-Mertz, a labor and delivery nurse of 18 years.
“Because of the pandemic, everything in our hospital changed,” said Pernik-Mertz. “For a minute, we thought, ‘how are we going to do this?’”
Fortunately, yoga provided a way.

‘Peace and joy’

“Because I have a job like that, I needed to have something that fulfilled me and gave me peace and joy. Yoga brings me peace,” Pernik-Mertz said. 
She shared her yoga routine with Ann Marie Wakula, a certified trainer and an over-40 mother of three.
Wakula is the host of the Fitness Over 40 series, brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The three-minute videos feature tips and mini workouts people can incorporate into their daily lives, even at home.
“When I unroll that mat, and when I’m on it, all I think about is my yoga practice, and what I’m doing right then and there,” said Pernik-Mertz. “Yoga is about relaxing, finding that peace, stretching your muscles.”
Stretching will help prevent injury, said Wakula.
“It was challenging for me, but what I found really enjoyable is that she was giving me modifications throughout the exercise,” says Wakula, who met Pernik-Mertz in a park for the yoga session.

Mental health benefits

The practice of yoga also offers more than just physical advantages -it can be beneficial to mental health.
“Yoga is something that grounds you, reminds you of what’s important,” said Pernik-Mertz. “Yoga teaches us to make adjustments. As different things happen, we have to adjust. Who didn’t adjust last year? Look at all the changes that people had to make. Getting back on my mat, every single time that I did it, helped me make some of those changes.”
If you want to try yoga but don’t know where to start, there are many online classes. Check out the latest Fitness Over 40 video and try this month’s fitness goal, which you can do without leaving home.
Look for future Fitness over 40 videos at

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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