West Vancouver hosts national health and fitness forum

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The event, organized by former MP John Weston, featured 21 high-profile presenters addressing concerns about Canada’s widespread physical inactivity

As a longstanding leader in the national health and fitness movement, West Vancouver was a fitting host for the inaugural edition of the Canadian Health and Fitness Institute’s National Forum on Health and Fitness, says organizer John Weston.

The event, which wrapped up June 2 and featured 21 high-profile presenters, was a call to action, he said. Over a week of in-person sessions, participants addressed concerns about Canada’s widespread physical inactivity, urging a collective effort to tackle this now-pressing issue.

“We believe over three out of five Canadian youth are not getting the minimum amount of physical activity every week, and as many as 40 per cent of young people are suffering from mental health issues relating to loneliness, screen addiction, isolation and outdoor deprivation,” said Weston, the former West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP who is the founder of the CHFI.

Noting that West Vancouver is home to a population that values and prioritizes physical activity, as exemplified by local organizations such as the Fit Fellas, the Nomads running group and Enhance West Van, Weston said he firmly believes that the power to promote healthy physical activity and overcome loneliness and sedentary behaviour lies within the local communities.

“That’s why I initiated National Health and Fitness Day, to get local governments to focus more on leveraging local communities,” he said. “That’s why CHFI has launched a focused project with the District of West Vancouver and other local governments – the Active Communities Index – to make better use of recreational facilities.”

At the forum, Weston announced a new joint venture between CHFI and goget.fit, a digital platform that integrates physical activity into students’ lives.

“I see a desperate need for Canadians, especially youth, to change current patterns,” he said. “We have to reverse the decline in mental, physical, and spiritual health, especially for youth. Political, corporate and non-profit leaders need to align around a societal transformation, without creating a new nanny state.”

Carla Qualtrough, Canada’s Minister of Sport and Physical Activity, was one of the keynote speakers at the event.

“In addition to impacting our physical, mental and emotional health, inactivity has social, economic and environmental consequences that are not just individual but take a toll on entire communities,” Qualtrough stated in a release. “One solution is very clear: Canadians need to move, and we need to move more. To do that, we need to make the active choice the easy first choice.”

Andrew Baker of the Canadian Olympic Committee, visiting from Montreal for the forum, stressed the COC’s role in promoting physical activity. He noted that by encouraging participation in National Sport Organizations, the COC aims to help increase physical activity levels among Canadians.

“The approach is one of many that will turn the tide to get Canadians moving,” he stated. “Part of the COC’s contribution is to support and spotlight the leadership and inspiration provided by Canada’s high-performance athletes.”

One of those high-performance athletes is Madison Mailey, an Olympic gold medallist from the Tokyo Games.

“Before becoming an Olympian, I was just an average athlete,” she said. “However, I loved the sense of community that sports provided and participated wholeheartedly. The key was having supportive parents and teammates and bringing my best effort to every session.”

A team of West Vancouver School District educators shared their hands-on work to make movement matter to students and families.

“The gateway to participation in physical activity starts with being physically literate. Teaching the basic fundamental movement skills is what we deliver, in simple, inexpensive and practical ways, on a consistent basis in classrooms,” said Diane Nelson, the director of instruction at West Vancouver Schools.

At the forum, attendees enjoyed engaging lectures and discussions, as well as musical performances by Juno Award-winning singers Shari Ulrich and Dana Powell.

The event is one of nine projects currently underway by CHFI, whose mission is to “Make Canada the Fittest Nation on Earth by 2030.” While the first edition took place on the North Shore, the forum will switch to Toronto next year.

Fatemeh Falah is an intern reporter with the North Shore News. She can be contacted at [email protected].


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