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Foundations for a good life: Health and wellness are not always found in a hospital

Over the last year we at Norway House Cree Nation have expanded our focus to invest more in our community?s ?recreational? infrastructure. The term recreational is a bit misleading because we are not so much focusing on ?play? as much as we are concentrating on infrastructure that encourages active living. We believe that an active lifestyle is an important element for improving personal and community health. It provides opportunities for expanding experience, physical skill, team building and opens greater opportunities.

It?s been said that our kids today are the least physically active generation in history and is at a level that threatens social and economic prosperity for individuals, communities, companies and countries around the world. So serious they say, that children today are more likely to have a shorter life span than their parents. This is not just about Norway House it?s true of Manitoba, Canada and countries the world over.

We need to take this seriously and make sure that there are places, programs and opportunities to play and become physically active. 

Here at Norway House, we believe that investing in the infrastructure needed for supporting physical activity is the first step. We feel that a commitment to physical activity is an important investment for the future. For example, over the last year we have built a state- of-the-art baseball diamond and a mile-long fitness trail. In addition, we are presently building a second diamond and two playgrounds. One playground was the vision of the late Jordin Bailey and is becoming reality with significant help from the Dream Factory and the many donations made in her memory. 

Based on the current research, we anticipate that this investment in physical activity will have multiple, wide reaching effects that last far into adulthood that positively impact the future of our community as a whole. For instance, its been shown that physical activity increases strength, flexibility, and even long-term skeletal health. In addition, active kids have more desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle and are more likely to make decisions that reject harmful substances or situations. All of these are good for less demand on the health care system, and in particular the incidence of diabetes and the need for dialysis. As well, it reduces the risk for depression, strengthens memory capacity and raises thinking ability. It makes kids feel happier and more confident.  Altogether making scholastic and future career success more likely, that together raises hope, forward thinking for the community.

In terms of building community, organized sport engages kids to a wider support group of friends, mentors, and role models. In turn these connections help kids discover positive ways to meet emotional pressures, overcoming the fear of failure and helping them develop a range of social skills that allow them to feel empowered and more confident encouraging them to go further and be more engaged members of the school and community. 

These are just a few of the potential positive results we can expect from a more active lifestyle for the youth. However, these can also be true for all of our community members, adding the further benefit of providing a venue that supports and encourages multi- generational relationships.

The benefits of physical activity are no secret, the evidence is clear. If we take health and building sustainable communities seriously, we all need to look closely at new investment in active living infrastructure. For us at Norway House, the path forward is to make investments in our recreational infrastructure a priority, and we invite the government and the private sector to join us in this pursuit. We are all called to live life more abundantly, so let us set this course.

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