“Getting outside, being physical, & enjoying some fresh air helps build a relationship with the natural environment & love for the outdoors.”
Many Canadians struggle with prioritizing physical activity and making it a part of their daily routines. Squeezing in an opportunity to reap the mental and physical health benefits of a quick movement session can seem difficult – but you are not alone.
Even lifelong athletes who weaved sport and physical activity into every aspect of their lives can face challenges, too.
Take, for example, four-time Olympic K-1 Kayak medalist and two-time World Champion Adam van Koeverden, who went from training four-to-five hours a day to finding it tough to fit in time for physical activity since becoming a Member of Parliament for Milton, Ontario in 2019.
“I found my way in sport in my early teenage years when I went down to the canoe club the first few times,” Adam told ParticipACTION. “Before that, physical activity and daily training really were not a huge part of my life, and to be totally candid with you, it’s been a challenge since retiring from sport because training was my job, and now my job is very different. So now I actually have to pursue opportunities for physical activity and recreation every day.”
“You don’t really ever see people playing sports and frowning at the same time.”
Those chances to move can sometimes be few and far between for many Canadians, especially with the restrictions of the last year – and that’s OK.
As Adam points out, it’s been a challenge even for an Olympian like himself to get active. But with a little focus and support from loved ones, everyone can get out there and reap the benefits of daily activity.
“I wish I could say that I’ve done a really extraordinary job (of staying active during the pandemic), but the last 10 months have been very challenging for me, just like a lot of other Canadians, and I’ve struggled,” said Adam.
“I rely on my friends and neighbours to run, ride, and be active with. It’s been tougher – so I fully recognize that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on our ability to stay active and healthy. And it’s had a negative impact on my mental health as well. But throughout the holidays I made the effort to make a little bit of a change. I made the time to get active. I put it in my calendar. I set some little goals that were achievable, reasonable and personal and then I worked hard to make it a priority every single day.”
Just like thousands of Canadians across the country, Adam feels the mental and physical effects of not being able to engage in the routine activities he’s used to. However, with the right frame of mind and bit of extra planning, anyone can still find the time to be active, no matter where they are on their physical activity journey.
“You don’t really ever see people playing sports and frowning at the same time,” Adam said.
“It’s almost universal that getting together for some physical activity, there’s joy in movement. The trick is to be accountable with friends, neighbours, and family. Have a regular commitment to getting outside, getting some exercise and relying on each other for that motivation.”
Research shows that whether you have endless kilometres of natural parks to explore or are just looking for a few minutes of movement with a walk down the block, getting active and embracing the outdoors can work wonders on both your physical and mental health.
“Sports, recreation, and daily physical activity have really strong implications not only on our mental health, but also a community’s well-being,” said Adam. “We’re all connected in some way, not just to each other and to what we do every day, but we’re also connected to the environment and the natural space we live in. I think getting outside, being physical and enjoying some fresh air helps build that relationship with the natural environment and the love for the outdoors.”