I have made it my mission to include information in my blog about the importance of staying healthy in Canada. Leading health researchers in Canada have observed that newcomers to Canada arrive with better health than the average Canadian. However, over time, the average health of newcomers to Canada declines below their Canadian counterparts. This phenomenon is called the ‘Healthy Immigrant Effect’.
Health is determined in many different ways: nutrition, mental health, social factors. In this post I will share some challenges and present solutions for you and your family to be physically active in Canada.
Here are five things to consider as you strive for physical fitness in Canada.
1) What is your current exercise routine?
What do you do right now to stay physically fit? Do you perform manual labour? Do you complete all of your errands by walking or bicycling? Do you dance, play a sport, or have a membership to a local gym?
Most likely, the exercise routine that you currently have is very closely linked to your lifestyle, routine, climate, and culture. Start by reflecting on what you do to stay fit in everyday life, and how that might change when you move to Canada.
2) Will you continue this exercise routine in Canada?
When you arrive in Canada, you will most likely be very busy, and your daily routine will be very different. Plan ahead on how you will incorporate fitness into your new lifestyle. Will you live in a place where you can walk or bicycle? Will you find work that is physically demanding? Will you register for a gym membership, or seek out a way to continue playing your favourite sports in Canada? Change can be very stressful, yet physical activity has been proven to combat stress. For this reason, it is important to incorporate fitness into your plan, even if it seems inconvenient.
3) Discover your surroundings
An easy way to incorporate fitness into your first days in Canada is to explore your new city or town by foot. You will become more familiar with local shops, community services and streets by walking, and you will be maintaining your fitness at the same time! In English this is considered ‘Killing two birds with one stone’ – completing two tasks with one action.
4) Plan to adjust your fitness to the Canadian climate
If your fitness routine requires warm, sunny weather, you will likely have to adjust how you stay fit through Canada’s cold winters. In my work with ESL students, I often caution them against ‘hibernating’ through winter – that is, staying in bed with a warm tea and a good book. While I am sometimes tempted to hibernate myself, it is important to plan seasonal ways to stay active, and commit to those new undertakings over the winter. For example, many Canadians register for a gym membership throughout the winter, or follow exercise videos at home. These are a couple of great ways to stay active, while at the same time being in the comforts of the heated indoors.
5) Embrace new sports, and Canada’s outdoors
Travelling to a new place often provides the opportunity to try new ways of staying fit. For example, when I visited Costa Rica in March, I learned how to surf – a sport that is nearly impossible to learn in my home province of Ontario. By embracing new sports in Canada you will be learning more about the culture, and you are likely to meet some enthusiastic Canadians who would like to teach you about these new activities. In the winter you might like to try curling or ice skating, or in the summer you might like to rent a canoe or play ultimate frisbee (my personal favourite!).
I hope that you find these five points have given you some ideas on ways to stay physically active in Canada. If you would like help, I am happy to discuss your goals with you in a free consultation, and find suitable sporting associations, gyms, and activities in Canada for you and your family.