The provincial focus group tasked with identifying ways
to increase physical activity in Saskatchewan says residents have a lot of
enthusiasm for change, but there are still plenty of challenges ahead.
Focus group leaders made their first and only stop in
Prince Albert for a pair of meetings on Tuesday. The goal was to gather
information about child, youth and family physical activity levels, which will
eventually be used to develop a Saskatchewan physical activity profile.
Dr. Oluwasegun Hassan, the project lead, said
Canadians have changed over the years, and so have their physical activity
habits. That means health experts need to look at different methods for getting
residents out of their homes and into parks, playgrounds and outdoor recreation
“There are opportunities, but we have changing
dynamics and cultural perceptions of physical activity,” Hassan said during a
short break Tuesday morning. “That is why some of those opportunities may seem
to not be used appropriately.”
Prince Albert was the group’s fifth stop on their
tour, and while it’s still too early to draw any concrete conclusions, some
common themes are starting to emerge. Enthusiasm is the biggest one. Focus
group leaders say they’re seeing people who are not only concerned about
physical activity levels, but also motivated to try and do something about it.
The trick is to make sure those efforts get channeled in the right direction.
“The committed leadership and the commitment to
working together, I think, is something that we often hear,” said Saskatchewan
In Motion manager Marnie Forsberg, one of the focus group coordinators. “People
want to work together, not necessarily just on their own or within their own
organizations. There’s a real commitment to do collaborative work.”
That enthusiasm for partnerships and community
building will likely be put to good use. Hassan said it’s easy to blame
technology or cold weather for the lack of physical activity, but a lack of
community is also a major concern. People don’t know their neighbours as well
as they used to, he explained, and because they aren’t as connected to their
community, they’re not involved in local events that include physical activity.
“The way we saw things a decade ago is not how we’re
seeing it now,” Hassan said. “For example, we’re seeing situations where Canada
is a multicultural society and there’s an increasing influx of immigrants, and
the perspectives within society are slightly changing. We’re starting to see
people in some cases having good connectedness (with their community) and in
some other cases, we’re seeing people say ‘I don’t know this next person. I
need to develop a better relationship within my community.’”
There have been some successes, so health officials
and community groups have some positives to build on, and early results show
plenty of enthusiasm for increasing physical activity options. However, Hassan
said those options need to be well-organized and well-balanced.
There is a strong correlation between increased
physical activity and improved mental and physical health. Physical activity
helps reduce anxiety and depression while improving stress management.
“If we have more kids who are more active more often ,
we know that will lead to more happiness for those kids, more health, more joy,
more confidence, independence and success,” Forsberg said.
The focus group plans to stop in three or four more
Saskatchewan communities before the end of June before sharing their findings
in late August or early September. The focus group’s next session will be in
Meadow Lake on Thursday, Jan. 21.