Even beyond the virus itself, the pandemic has made healthy living a real challenge. Being stuck at home too close to the fridge and too far from normal activities has resulted in extra pounds for people young and old. It often seems that if you’re not stressed, depressed and anxious, you must not be paying attention.

Yet at the same time, for many of us the pandemic has reintroduced the sanity-saving benefits of fitness. Throughout quarantine and beyond, exercise has been crucial to maintaining mental and physical health.

And after many months of sedentary lifestyles, more Americans are taking control of their health now than ever before. We see the evidence all around us, in packed parks and golf courses — and by the number of readers flocking to The Inquirer’s fitness and wellness articles.

That’s why we’re expanding these popular features with the help of longtime Philadelphia fitness instructor and personal trainer Yvonne Ferguson Hardin, who is adding her expertise to that of fitness columnist Ashley B. Greenblatt. Having two experts on the team means we’ll be able to focus our coverage to our readers’ specific needs, so please let us know what you’re most interested in.

» READ MORE: 4 ways to improve your flexibility after pandemic inactivity

Hardin, 56, has been a fitness professional for more than 30 years. She runs boot camp classes in Fairmount Park for weekend warriors, teaches strength training and yoga to seniors, and has worked in roles as varied as brain injury therapy at a rehab center to recreation director at a retirement community. She holds a degree in therapeutic recreation from Temple University.

After years of teaching at area fitness centers, in 2009 Hardin opened Fergie’s Instructional Training FIT LLC, a Germantown studio where she focuses on functional fitness. As the pandemic locked down gyms, Hardin quickly adapted to offering group classes and personal training by Zoom.

She specializes in helping adults 55 and older. A resident of West Mount Airy, she is also an advocate for older adults, conducting wellness seminars at long-term care facilities, nursing homes, churches and senior centers. And as the head of a multi-generation household, she knows what it’s like to balance the needs of an active family with running your own business.

Hardin is excited to inspire both avid exercisers and those who are embarking on a new fitness journey. This week, she’s coaxing us out of those COVID-19 cocoons with gentle yet invigorating stretches.