Taking action

A letter from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority President and CEO
Wave, November / December 2016

Milton Sussman
Milton Sussman

What motivates people to become physically active? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some decide to become more physically active because they simply want to lose a few pounds and remain fit and trim. Others do it to help manage a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

And some become more active because they simply want to improve their quality of life. Laura Cowie, the woman featured on the cover of this issue of Wave, is a case in point.

The 58-year-old Winnipeg woman is one of several Manitobans interviewed for our feature story about people who are using physical activity to maximize their health and well-being.

As Laura explains in our article beginning on page 12, she had been a reasonably healthy and active person for much of her life. But that changed when she started to develop osteoarthritis in her knees and hip. As the osteoarthritis worsened, she found herself becoming more sedentary.

Eventually, Laura underwent surgery to replace both knees and a hip. After the operations, she started to realize that years of being inactive had left her with a life that “had just shrunk and shrunk and shrunk.” As she says in the story, “I just had this yearning, this feeling, that my life could be bigger.”

And so, Laura took action and joined the Reh-Fit Centre, where a team of professionals quickly developed a physical activity program that would enable Laura to get her life back on track.

Now, Laura says she feels much better about the direction her life is taking.

I’m sure many people will be able to relate to Laura’s story. I know I can. About 20 years ago, I also found myself drifting into inactivity.

Although I had been a pretty regular runner for most of my adult life, I sustained a back injury in the late 1990s that left me unable to move as easily as I once did.

As you might expect, the lack of exercise affected my health. In addition to gaining some weight, my blood pressure started to rise and I started to feel more lethargic.

Eventually, I also decided to join the Reh-Fit Centre. And for the last 16 years, I have been faithfully showing up pretty much every morning at 6 a.m. sharp for a brisk workout that includes some cardiovascular activities and some stretching.

It has made a world of difference to my life and my health. In addition to being a great stress reliever, those morning workouts have helped me lose a few pounds and stabilize my blood pressure.

Now, the notion that a little exercise is good for one’s health and well-being is not a particularly new concept. But we are learning more every year about how effective exercise can be in promoting good health and preventing or managing chronic diseases. Some studies suggest that exercise can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease by between 30 and 60 per cent.

(That’s no small thing when you consider that the Public Health Agency of Canada has estimated that as much as 67 per cent of health-care costs can be attributed to chronic diseases.)

We are also becoming increasingly sophisticated in how we apply that new knowledge.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the Reh-Fit Centre and the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital. Both of these organizations are considered to be leaders in promoting the idea of “exercise as medicine,” a concept that involves the use of physical activity to support good health and prevent or manage chronic diseases.

Indeed, the Reh-Fit and the Wellness Institute are the only two centres in Canada to receive “medical fitness” certifications from the Medical Fitness Association, a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes the development of integrated medical fitness facilities.

As a result, people who join either facility can expect to gain access to a variety of specialized services, including a comprehensive health and fitness assessment and the high level of guidance and support needed to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

In doing so, these facilities are providing an important service, not just for individuals like Laura Cowie, but for the health-care system as a whole.

Wave: November / December 2016

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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