Put some fun in your day

A letter from the Winnipeg Health Region

Winnipeg Health Region President & CEO
Wave, January / February 2015

Arlene Wilgosh
Arlene Wilgosh

Looking at the smiling faces of the two little girls on the cover of this issue of Wave, it seems rather obvious that they are having a good time.

And why not?

As this picture was being taken, the girls - Kaitlyn, six, and Sarah, eight - were getting ready to join their mom in one of their favourite activities - crosscountry skiing.

For them, the chance to be out on the wooded trails of the Windsor Park Nordic Centre on a crisp winter day was just one thing - fun! The fact that cross-country skiing was good for their health and wellbeing was just a bonus.

And they are not the only ones who feel this way. As our cover story points out, cross-country skiing is becoming increasingly popular with families in our community.

There are, of course, many reasons for this. For one thing, cross-country skiing is a relatively inexpensive sport. For another, it is fairly easy to learn, which means everyone in the family can participate.

But mostly, people just take joy in the chance to be outside, breathe in the fresh air, and spend some quality time with friends and family.

There is, I think, a lesson in all this.

It's no secret that Canadians - young and old - are not as active as they should be. It's also no secret that this lack of activity can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as hypertension, obesity, cardiac disease and Type 2 diabetes.

These points have been made in numerous studies over the years, the latest one being published by the Conference Board of Canada last fall. Among other things, that study noted that only 15 per cent of Canadians get the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous activity needed to improve or maintain health.

Yet, despite mounting evidence that the vast majority of us need to become more active to enhance our health and reduce our risk of developing chronic disease, many of us still seem unable to find the time or the will to do so. Now, I recognize there could be many reasons for our failure to become more physically active, including time constraints, work pressures and lack of access.

But I think at least one reason why so many of us are less active than we should be is that we have forgotten one of the basic lessons of childhood: physical activity makes you feel good.

Don't just take my word on that - it's a scientifically proven fact. Take cross-country skiing. As Dr. Lawrence Elliott, Medical Director of Population and Public Health with the Winnipeg Health Region, points out in our story, crosscountry skiing can provide enthusiasts with a terrific physical workout, one that can help them burn as much as 400 to 600 calories an hour. But it also triggers the release of chemicals in our brain that can boost our spirits, says Elliott. And that's true of all sports and activities. All you have to do is pick one.

Even if cross-country skiing is not your idea of fun, there are many other physical activity options available to people these days, including some that you may have never heard of.

Two of the latest trends generating attention are CrossFit and Parkour. The former involves a number of disciplines, including high-intensity interval training and weightlifting. The latter involves navigating over the barriers of an urban environment by running, jumping and climbing.

As our in motion column points out, these activities are not for everyone, so it is important you assess the risks and pick the one that fits your expectations and physical fitness level. Nonetheless, with all the choices out there today, you're bound to find something that works for you.

The bottom line in all this is fairly straightforward. Most of us need to increase our physical activity level in some way in order to enhance our health and well-being and reduce our risk of developing chronic disease.

And in doing so, let's take a lesson from Kaitlyn and Sarah. Let's go out and have some fun!

Wave: January / February 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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