For many students, schools serve as a place to get exercise and stay healthy. According to Statistics Canada, the pandemic has had a major impact on the mental and physical health of children and youth.
Bradley White, physical education teacher and department head at Windermere Secondary and Trevor Stokes, a physical education teacher at Britannia Secondary share how fitness can help improve your mental health.
“Exercise is more than just getting a good workout in,” says White. “Our weight rooms and group fitness classes at Windermere are a second home for a lot of students and it gives them a reason to get up for school in the morning,” he adds.
While students were learning from home and physical activity was limited, White felt motivated to design an outdoor fitness park as an alternative for students to exercise safely in groups.
“The fitness park has 15 stations with multi-purpose equipment meant for circuit-style exercises,” he explains. “With a variety of different stations, there is enough space for 30 people to workout at the same time without having to share equipment.”
The purpose behind the outdoor fitness park is to promote physical activity for students and others within the community. “Students have faced a lot of challenges throughout the last two years,” says White. “The fitness park will provide them with a safe space outside to be able to exercise with their peers.”
Stokes also stresses the importance of physical activity for a students’ healthy mind and body.
“For over 20 years, I have seen the incredible link between physical fitness and mental health,” says Stokes. “The internal dialogue that goes on while exercising is one of life’s greatest gifts – and for so many of my students, it’s those moments of solitude and silence that can offer the most important answers to significant questions.”
At the beginning of October, Stokes went on air with CBC news to talk about Streetfront – an alternative education program with a focus on physical activity and outdoor experiences.
“The students in the program find running very therapeutic,” Stokes says in the interview. “It allows them to have a conversation with themselves and unfold a lot of issues that they are facing.”
Both White and Stokes encourage students to get outside, stay active, and make their mental health a priority.