Program promotes physical fitness

Natalie Houser (left to right), Dr. Louise Humbert and Dr. Marta Erlandson

A program aimed at boosting kids’ physical fitness levels is currently in full swing in Martensville.

The program, known as “Physical Literacy,” is also designed to increase children’s motivation to get active and stay active throughout their lives, according to Natalie Houser, a PhD student and one of the organizers of the program.

“We call it Physical Literacy because it’s more than just fitness,” said Houser in an interview at Valley Manor School on Thursday, November 15. “It’s a more holistic approach to physical activity that emphasizes not just physical competence, but also people’s motivation, confidence, and ability to move.

“We want to see kids become life-long movers, so this project is all about figuring out the best way to approach and achieve that goal.”

Houser said the Physical Literacy initiative is a partnership between the City of Martensville, SaskSport, Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, and In Motion. The program is currently measuring fitness levels of Grades 4 through 8 children in Martensville, Wynyard and Outlook, with follow-up sessions planned for the end of the school year in June, 2019.

Over the coming months, youth of all ages, as well as adults, are being encouraged to participate in physical activity through a variety of programs in the schools and the city’s recreation department. The goal is to promote physical activity among everyone, including adults.

Houser said fitness levels of kids across the country are “lower than we’d like to see,” and noted the current study aims to address the root cause. That’s why boosting motivation and confidence are key elements of the program, she said.

Baseline testing of students’ fitness levels are currently underway at Martensville’s three public elementary schools. Houser, along with Dr. Louise Humber and Dr. Marta Erlandson, put the students through their paces at several “stations” during their assessment session on November 15. The kids also filled out questionnaires documenting their daily activity patterns.

Houser said the measurement exercises are designed to be fun.

“It’s not like a test,” she said. “We just want to see where they’re at and get an overall picture. With every journey, there are highs and lows, everyone is at a different point, but the idea is to see them progressing.

“By the time we do follow-up measurements next summer, hopefully we’ll see some positive changes.”

Houser said the ultimate goal of the program is to spark higher, “sustainable” levels of physical activity in the community.

Prior to the implementation of the program, community residents were consulted on what they wanted to see in terms of recreational opportunities.

“We’re basically here to help folks get started,” said Houser. “The community is very capable of implementing the kind of programs they want and need.”