Fitness and Food can be FUN at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR)!
Canada’s physical activity guidelines recommend that children aged 5 to 17 need 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise daily. This should include both vigorous-intensity activities and muscle and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.
The past summer was a busy one. The Child and Youth team proposed a new Fitness Fun and Food program for health promotion; to increase education and provide a unique program of health in a shelter setting.
The goal was to offer incentives through use of easy and accessible activities provided by the child and youth staff to deliver a fitness and nutrition-based program with hopes to integrate it into an already existing program specifically for children/youth residing within the shelter.
While understanding and appreciating the significant impact that movement and play can have on a child, it was amazing to see the program come to fruition via community funding from Loblaw’s.
The CY team went to work, understanding the parameters and key elements that come into play around shelter living. The team developed a program that would meet the needs of the families in residential setting, which in hindsight, turned out more successful than anticipated.
Some of the activities included: Understanding nutrition/healthy baking, yoga, skipping, hoola hoops, jumping, ball tossing, wall climbing and many other cooperative games. The framework was to include activities that promote strength, balance, coordination and most importantly fun. The program also brought mom and child together for the activities, so that both would reap the benefits of a healthy diet and physical exercise.
Many of the clients at WCSWR have and continue to face many barriers accessing outside community resources to aid in the promotion of fitness and nutrition, therefore, we were fortunate to be able to offer families a resource to increase their understanding. We felt that the children/youth at WCSWR needed to explore these opportunities delivered directly to them in hopes to maintain or boost physical mobility and increase knowledge and concepts around healthy eating guidelines. We hope that the program served as an incentive to leave a sedentary lifestyle, a side effect of a world full of technology and lack of mobility.
Through this program we were able to introduce a bonding experience with mothers and their children as they shared in the activities together. Staff observed changes in children’s abilities to: increase their self-esteem, build more resilience in a time of stress and anxiety, increase their self -mastery by consciously making the decision to take care of their health.
We were also able to see changes in mood, motivation, impulse control, feelings of wellness and an overall “feel good” experience in the youth that participated. Smiles and giggles between mothers and their children were just side-effects!
The youth seemed to show a strong desire to be a part of something “good for them” and reported loving the activities.
As a staff person who was able to observe the benefits, the goal of the program was to allow the children and youth a safe place to participate and learn about feeling good when they exercise and eat well. The children and youth were able to understand that when they have been feeling down and they start to exercise and eat healthier, they will begin to feel better. Participants learned that they can take action to change their routines, that they can dramatically improve their mood and over all sense of happiness.
Here’s hoping that we can provide a successful Fitness Fun and Food Program next summer as well!
The Child and Youth Team.