The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority is running a wellness program to combat the worst of the winter blues.
For 12 weeks, up to 20 registered participants will meet for an hour and a half on Tuesday evenings to talk about topics ranging from healthy eating to physical activity. Nutritionist Kaylynne Parkes, who is guiding the program, said the goals of the program are long-term, sustainable changes for participants, as well as chronic disease prevention.
“The program is holistic,” she told The Hub. “It has a little bit of everything, like exercise, healthy eating, and even some psychological components like emotional eating.”
Parkes said the program is designed to follow the needs of the people who have registered and that the first session last week focused on brainstorming what participants would find the most attractive and effective at promoting healthy activities.
“I signed up for the wellness program in hopes that it will give me the push and challenge that I need to stick to meal planning and healthy choices,” said participant Shayla Maisonneuve. “I’m looking forward to learning about healthy alternatives, and grocery shopping with meal planning in mind.”
Some of the topics that came up were injury prevention while exercising, as well as ways to work out that do not require gym equipment or a lot of dedicated time.
“They seem like a keen group and I’m optimistic,” Parkes said. “We’ve run programs like this in previous years, but this time it’s not so focused on weight loss – it’s more about being healthy and active overall.”
Parkes did note that rates of chronic diseases, like diabetes, are higher in the North than in the rest of Canada, and that treatment for such illnesses is a major burden on the healthcare systems across the nation.
“Chronic disease rates are rising nationally,” she said. “This program isn’t only about being physically fit, feeling and looking good, but also about trying to prevent chronic disease before it starts.”
Although the nature of the program is that it attracts primarily women, Parkes said there is no targeted population besides people who want to make positive changes in their lifestyle. She hoped that being part of a group would keep people motivated through the rest of the winter and help instill sustainable changes that they would then bring forward with them into the rest of the year.
“It’s the beginning of a new year,” she said. “That tends to make it easier for people to get started. I hope this group helps people who maybe wouldn’t be motivated to do it on their own or who haven’t yet taken that initiative.”
Parkes plans to involve other health services, like physiotherapy, at the request of participants, but said that collaboration is a theme that runs throughout the program.
“This is a small town,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to not work together. We’re not as effective if we’re all working separately towards the same goal.”
While they haven’t had to turn anyone away yet, Parkes said the program is full and that she expects most people to stick it out until May 1, when the 12 week run is up.
Parkes said that if the program goes well and there is funding, she would like to see it continue in one form or another.
“Maybe we would keep going with these same people, maybe we would start with a new group,” she said. “But the response so far has shown me it’s definitely something that people want in the community.”