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Supporting mental health through physical activity

The Alberta Health Services’ Move Your Mood program is one of our Saputo Signature Grant recipients, six incredible organizations from across Canada who exemplify how physical activity helps #MeYouUs.

ParticipACTION is proud to partner with Saputo for the Community Better Challenge. Together, we are working towards building healthy communities, one active Canadian at a time. 

women runningThe incredibly damaging effects of the pandemic on our mental health have been well documented. Luckily, research also shows that regular physical activity is essential for our mental health and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, decrease daily stress and boost moods. That’s why so many public health experts recommended daily activity, especially outdoors, throughout the pandemic.

The link between physical activity and mental health is behind an innovative initiative from Alberta Health Services (AHS) called Move Your Mood. This research-based program teaches people living in Red Deer and other central Alberta communities how physical activity and leading a healthy lifestyle can improve mental and physical well-being. They do this through education and by engaging participants in physical activity and healthy lifestyle practices. “Our main goal is to shift people’s perspective on physical activity and show them how it enhances mental health first followed by physical health, especially if you can stick with it,” said Denise Fredeen, health promotion facilitator and Move Your Mood program coordinator at AHS.

women exercising in a gymMove Your Mood has specific initiatives for children and youth, post-partum mothers, families, schools and communities. “I needed support because I was having some mental health and anxiety issues,” said Jodi-Ann Richards, a mother of two who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica four years ago. “The program taught me different ways to manage my anxiety and get active with my seven-month-old baby and 10-year-old son.”

AHS offers an eight-week-long Move Your Mood family challenge in February where they distribute weekly emails sharing tips and ideas on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. “The family challenge has had great success in promoting ways that families can get active, eat healthy and develop positive relationships,” said Denise. “Many participants have said they loved the time to just step back and connect with their families and communities through movement, because life can be busy.”

ParticipACTION members paintingEvery year during the first week of May (Mental Health Awareness Week), AHS offers a Move Your Mood school challenge, where tips on how to get active are shared on the morning announcements each day that week. Thanks to a Saputo Signature Grant, students at several schools participated in weekly programming to promote physical activity and mental health, as part of the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge in June.

Move Your Mood, in partnership with SPARC Red Deer, also funded spray-painted games in local parks and schools in Red Deer. “These fun and interactive games are an active draw for people in the community,” said Denise. “I’ve seen children, teenagers and even grown adults bouncing and hopping together!” The Saputo Signature Grant also funded two new spray-painted game locations this year.

In collaboration with her addiction and mental health promotion colleagues, Denise is expanding the Move Your Mood program across central Alberta by providing training to others in the community so they can reach even more people with the program’s impactful messaging.

“Our main dream is to have children, youth and their families hear the Move Your Mood messaging wherever they’re accessing support, whether it’s at the children’s psychiatric unit, in addiction and mental health departments, at school, at home or in the community,” said Denise. “The more times you hear that physical activity improves mental health, the more it will just become second nature.”

Join the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge

Physical activity helps me, you, us! Getting active provides benefits for your community and you, like improved mood, increased energy and a stronger sense of connection with others. From June 1-30, get active to help your community be crowned Canada’s Most Active Community and win $100,000!

Download or open the free ParticipACTION app to join!

The ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge is proudly supported by the Government of Canada and Saputo.

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