While 2020 will be remembered as a year that tested the physical and mental endurance of everyone, the City of Swift Current’s 9th annual Wellness Challenge provides the opportunity to have a healthy start to the new year.
This free-of-charge activity is offered by the City of Swift Current Community Services Division to promote healthy lifestyles among residents.
Daily life has changed a lot since Val Choo-Foo, the In Motion community facilitator at the City of Swift Current, organized the previous Wellness Challenge a year ago.
“I never would have guessed a year ago when I was planning a wellness challenge for 2020, that we would experience a pandemic and still be living through it,” she said.
She felt the current COVID-19 pandemic actually makes the 2021 Wellness Challenge more relevant than ever before.
“I believe it's probably more important than ever that we have a wellness challenge during a pandemic,” she said. “We know with the science and everything that it's very important to keep physically active and taking care of ourselves so that if by chance we do get the virus, hopefully our immune system is strong enough that we can fight it.”
The 2021 Wellness Challenge takes place for four weeks from Jan. 18 to Feb. 14. The registration of teams for the challenge must be done by Jan. 13.
The challenge has a team format, but team members do not need to meet to carry out the various activities. It is therefore a perfect activity during this pandemic time of physical distancing.
“It’s one thing that COVID can't cancel,” she said. “Anyone can still participate in the Wellness Challenge, because basically you could do it and never leave your house. You can sleep, you can drink water, you can be physically active in your house. So it's one of those that I actually think is very important that we encourage it in our community and see as many people as we can get to register and hopefully we can focus on health.”
Participants can register a team from their workplace, family or friends, with a minimum of five members. The team format is a great way to help members of a team to stay motivated while adhering to public health measures.
“I could be on a team with eight other people and we wouldn't have to ever see each other.,” she said. “All we're doing is staying accountable to each other. There will be a team captain, who will send out the e-mails with the information, kind of your cheerleader trying to keep everyone going. … Obviously if a family is living in the same house and they want to make a team, then they may choose to do some of their activities in a group, but through all of this we are encouraging everyone to follow the guidelines while they're staying physically active.”
The challenge aims to promote healthy habits, and participants keep track of daily wellness points for nutrition, physical activity, water and sleep. They will report to their team captain once a week with their points.
The team captain will compile the total team points per week, and submit a report halfway through the challenge to Choo-Foo as well as the final team report. There will be prizes for the top team as well as the top five individual participants.
“We do ask, in order to be eligible for the team price, that you have a minimum of five people on your team,” she said. “We've ranged from five up to probably the largest would be around 30 on a team, but usually anywhere from that five to 10 or 12 is the most common on a team. And then individuals can also register for the Wellness Challenge. The only thing is they're not eligible for a team price, but they're eligible for independent, because there's five prices for the individuals who have the highest points.”
Choo-Foo will always make a few changes based on people’s feedback from the previous challenge. For the 2021 Wellness Challenge the details for the physical activity component have been simplified. The goal for participants is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, and they receive five points for every 10 minutes.
“Nutrition is still based on the new Canadian food guide that's only been out for two years,” she noted. “So I didn't change it much, because I wanted people to get used to the new Canadian food guide.”
Participants can earn bonus points through the educational challenge by watching the education videos and reading the articles for each week. She decided to focus this educational challenge on mental wellness, which was one of the suggestions from the previous Wellness Challenge. The topics in this component include mindfulness, calmness, acceptance, and gratitude.
“Some of them are videos and some are reading articles,” she said. “Canadian Mental Health Association helped by providing some of the resources that they use and then I had a few people from Saskatchewan Health Authority giving me some help with that too.”
There is also a weekly challenge to participate in for five bonus points. These challenges vary and adds to the fun of the entire Wellness Challenge.
“A few of them this year are try a new recipe this week, or turning off electronics before going to bed,” she said. “And then the last week is a challenge to people to try to do seven acts of kindness during that week, since that was the topic of the educational focus for the last week.”
A new addition to the 2021 Wellness Challenge will be an event page on Facebook, which will provide a new platform for teams to interact.
“Other than e-mails back and forth on the City website, we've never really had a platform where we can chat and encourage each other and share information,” she explained. “Once you have a team, you'll have access to go there. So it wouldn't be open for everyone in the public, but it will be specific to invite. Once I have team captains, I'll invite them to that event and then that will be a place where we can share with each other.”
There were 2,200 participants in the Wellness Challenge over the past eight years. Annual participation varied anywhere from around 180 to 400, but in most years the numbers were in the mid 200s. The event fits in well with the goal of the City and Community Services to promote healthy lifestyles in the community.
“Our whole tag line is promoting healthy lifestyles in our community,” she noted. “So we want a community that is healthy and active and engaged. I think it's everybody's wish, whether the City or not, that we are healthy and this is just a way that we can encourage all different groups, whether you're a business group or whether you're a non-profit or a family, to focus on wellness.”
She is uncertain what to expect from the 9th Wellness Challenge, considering that it is taking place during a pandemic.
“We all know exercise is good for us, but sometimes it's so hard to get yourself motivated, especially when times have been tough,” she said. “So I hope the word can get out there that this is a really important thing for us to do right now and we'll get the numbers again.”
She appreciates the ongoing support of the Kiwanis Club of Swift Current for the annual Wellness Challenge.
“They actually financially sponsor the Wellness Challenge,” she said. “They have been our main sponsor for most of the years. So we thank them for that continued support.”
To register a team for the 2021 Wellness Challenge, send an e-mail to Choo-Foo at firstname.lastname@example.org and include the team name, number of participants, and the name of the team captain.
For more information, contact Community Services at 306-778-2787 or visit the City of Swift Current website at www.swiftcurrent.ca/wellnesschallenge