Native Village
Youth and Education news

April 1, 2012
Fitness Takes Hold in Aboriginal Country With Just Move It—Canada
Condensed by Native Village

Last month, Aboriginals in Canada joined their American Indian and Alaska Native cousins to learn how to shake their booty, traditionally speaking.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) joined with fitness advocates to launch Just Move It—Canada, an online fitness initiative that capitalizes on indigenous strengths to get people into physical activity.

“Whether it’s -50 degrees in our beautiful winter or +20 in summer, I encourage Inuit to go outside, enjoy nature, and ‘Just Move it’ by engaging in traditional Inuit activities, recreational sports leagues, or going to the community centre,” said National Inuit Leader Mary Simon. Simon is President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) the Inuit-advocacy organization. “There are plenty of ways to stay fit based on our traditional and modern activities. Let’s all get fit and stay fit.”

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo noted that exercise is right up there with education when it comes to strengthening communities.

Healthy communities are thriving communities, and Just Move It will help showcase existing and new community-based initiatives toward achieving health and wellness among our peoples,” Atleo said.  “Just Move It is much more than an online tool. It is part of a national movement and growing momentum among Indigenous Peoples to work together to maintain healthy, active lifestyles as a key component to our progress and success.”

The U.S.–based Healthy Native Communities Partnership Inc.
 originated the idea. The HNCP has partnered with the two aboriginal groups, and is working in tandem with Health Canada.

The movement, known as JMI, was created in the United States in 1993. It
“builds on the indigenous values of sharing and  storytelling, and plays an important role in promoting cultural practices and traditional knowledge around wellness and physical activity. JMI partners report having an increased awareness of physical activity promotion and program opportunities leading to direct impacts on healthy behaviours in communities.”

“We are really excited to see Just Move It expand to include First Nations and Inuit communities from Canada,” said HNCP Executive Director David Reede. “Indigenous communities are stronger when we share our wisdom and  learnings about what is working for wellness.”

At a workshop in Ottawa, participants discussed ways to use digital storytelling and other technology to enhance and encourage fitness. They also developed strategies to encourage people to become active.
It comes not a moment too soon.
Diabetes is increasing at a “horrendously high rate—two-and-a-half to five times that of the general population,” said Stewart Harris, M.D. from the University of Western Ontario

In a recent study study, Harris found that as many as 40% of First Nations adults living on reserves have type 2  diabetes, versus 7% in the general population, and that aboriginals are diagnosed with diabetes 10 - 20 years younger than the  general population.

“We applaud this new interactive tool that improves awareness of physical activity and wellness, and motivates people to make healthy choices,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

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