SportMedBC helps to make real lifestyle changes for food bank recipients

Wendy Ladner-Beaudry coordinated with SportMedBC to offer 10 free spots at Sun Run InTraining clinics for those in need. Ladner-Beaudry, who works for Kidsport Canada, had come to the Vancouver food bank to encourage the mothers to sign their children up for sports programs, but she quickly realized that the mothers needed something too.

“Only the people who can afford to, are able to keep fit,” says Jean Ahtoy, a 62-year-old woman living on a disability pension. “They can afford to go to gyms, they can afford to buy good shoes and they can afford to buy all these nice gym outfits. But it’s beyond your means if you are on a limited income.”

The YWCA provided stretch bands and exercise programs on cards. That got eight women regularly involved. Then Mary Clark, Active Living coordinator at Vancouver Coastal Health’s Pacific Spirit health centre, got involved. “Poverty is a more reliable predictor of poor health and chronic disease than factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking,” she says, adding that the chronic stress and social exclusion people on low incomes experience are two likely culprits for their ill health. Recreation counters both, she says.

She provided 50 pedometers and suddenly 50 women started walking — getting off the bus one stop early, choosing the stairs over the elevator, walking to the store instead of busing. They felt better both physically and mentally.

Sun Run sponsor Rackets and Runners supplied each of the eight women with new runners and vests. “I felt like I’d won the lottery,” says Maria Cardona, 41, an immigrant from El Salvador and mother of four boys. “It’s hard for us because my husband’s on EI.”

In the two months since then, the women have enthusiastically embraced the program. They have bonded with the others in their clinics, feel connected to their community and have changed their eating habits.
Ahtoy says it has changed the way she lives her life. She walks more in her daily routine and she has stopped buying junk food. Now she eats oatmeal and makes trail mix of nuts and dried fruit that she buys in bulk. She has lost weight and her doctor is delighted. “And I feel connected to the community centre now too. It’s been a wonderful experience,” she says.

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