Fiona Proctor loves to cross-country ski and canoe. She rides her bike and she walks at every opportunity. And she encourages her two young children to do the same, because she believes in the importance of an active lifestyle.
“Kids are our future,” she says. “By role modeling and teaching kids to move their bodies in fun ways, we set them up to be active for life.”
Proctor’s ideas are echoed by her friend, Joanna, also a mom of young children. The two met while taking a cross-country ski class. Proctor pulled her one child along behind her, while Joanna — who was pregnant at the time — shuffled her young son along on his own set of skis.
“It is a joy for a parent to see their kids develop skills and just get out there,” Joanna says. “It’s just fun.”
But more than fun, being active gives kids a healthy way to release stress, she notes. It teaches kids about the importance of teamwork, and “it will help my kids maintain a healthy lifestyle all their lives.”
Joanna is modeling an active lifestyle for her children, similarly to her own childhood. Born and raised in Toronto, she grew up trying all kinds of sports: skating, tennis, downhill skiing, ballet, jazz, rowing, and swimming.
“I’m good at lots of things, rather than being an expert at one,” she points out. “I think this is really valuable. I was doing it all just for fun and, as I think about it, I’m taking a similar approach with my own kids.”
So is Proctor. A public health nurse in Collingwood, Ont., she admits she spends much of her time in front of the computer, like so many of us do these days. “Many people commute to work, sit all day at a desk, commute home and then engage in more screen time,” notes Proctor, who works in Chronic Disease Prevention — Healthy Lifestyle at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
But even at work, she tries to schedule walking meetings and stand-up meetings. “This is a conscious effort, as it would be so easy to sit all day,” she contends.
And on the weekends and evenings, as much as they can, she and her family get outside. “As a family, we are committed to being outdoors, because we find that’s the easiest way to be active,” Proctor observes. “We go to a forest and wander. We go for weeklong canoe trips in Algonquin Park. We go canoeing as often as we can.”
But, of course, that’s not possible every day, which is why Proctor and her family find other ways to get moving daily. “We also incorporate an active lifestyle by making sure that any trips under two kilometres are done by foot.”
While those trips may take a little longer than they would in a car, the pay-off is worth it for her family, says Proctor. “They know that not every trip needs to be taken in a vehicle.”
For Proctor, the benefits involve more than just being in shape. “Being active stimulates the brain and can optimize learning potential,” she asserts. “Moving helps with self-regulation, sleep, and appropriate and calculated risk-taking.”
Taking a few extra steps. Parking further away from your destination. Getting up a little earlier to go for a short walk. Even small changes count when it comes to being active, Proctor notes. “It is about finding something that works for you,” she adds.
“It is reminding ourselves that we feel good when we move our bodies.”