Indigenous Fitness Challenges and AIG return to Alberta this summer

By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – There are some exciting activities taking place this summer that promote health, fitness and wellness. With the recent announcement that the Province is in Stage 2 of reopening, the Alberta Indigenous Games are set to take place in August.

The Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) is also back with the Summer Fitness Challenge, a completely free fitness program open to any Indigenous person in Alberta from June 14 to August 21.

A pre-made work-out program is given to each participant, which includes three days of strength training and two days of cardio. Then each day the participants work out, they can take a picture or video of themselves and post it on social media in order for a chance to win prizes.

“It’s really fun because you see people from all over the province posting their pictures, their videos, everyone’s supporting each other,” said Jake Hendy, Executive Director of the ISCA.

The Fitness Challenge currently has 95 different communities from in and outside of Alberta participating.

38 First Nations in Alberta are being represented in the challenge, including Alexander First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Siksika Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation and many, many more.

It’s like the old adage, Hendy said in an interview with Global News, “You give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. You teach him how to fish, you give him a lifetime.”

The Summer Fitness Challenge is participation-based, meaning everyone goes at their own pace. In fact, the program has a ton of different programs suited towards specific demographics.

“Everyone goes where they’re at — they modify, modify, modify. If you haven’t worked out in thirty to forty years, it’s okay you can do this. We have a disabilities division, specifically for those with disabilities. We have a new and expecting mothers division for those who have had a baby this year or are going to.”

“It’s all about participation, it’s all about fun, it’s all about being in the physical part of your body that will help with all your other parts,” said Hendy to Global News’ Mike Sobel.

Last fall the ISCA taught 10 Indigenous communities how to create their own fitness programs “from Piikani — Kainai down South — up to Little Red River Cree Nation up North and everywhere in between,” said Hendy.

The ISCA is also coordinating a family fitness challenge, which works the same way as the Summer Fitness Challenge. However the family fitness challenge is based on the medicine wheel teachings. Hendy said, “Everyday they look forward to doing something as a family.”

“That’s a big thing we talk about. With the pandemic and the shutdowns, you can’t control a lot of things… But we can control our physical health and if we have our physical health it helps our mental health, which helps out emotional and spiritual health. It helps be better parents, grandparents overall.”

The ISCA is going to be hosting a special virtual walk/jog/run on Indigenous People’s day, June 21. “Everyone’s going to be wearing orange in commemoration [and] just bringing awareness to the residential school kids that survived and those that didn’t,” said Hendy.

The ISCA is also very pleased to announce that the very popular Alberta Indigenous Games will be taking place this summer. Hendy said that that they are currently accepting applications from prospective coordinators, security members, or summer students for the AIG happening August 12 to 19th in Edmonton, Alberta — they are also in need of volunteers.

The games celebrate and promote Indigenous athleticism for youth of all ages from all across Alberta – and include numerous team and individual sports.

As for other projects the ISCA is undertaking, they will be hosting a hiking challenge, a golf challenge, a bean-bag/cornhole virtual tournament, and a virtual Indigenous games in the fall.

Fitness Challenge Ambassador and Edmonton Oilers defence man, Ethan Bear, said of the ISCA’s programs, “We realize is it important to take care of the people around us, but it is also important to take care of yourself and your personal well-being.”

“With this in mind, ISCA and I know that getting and staying physically active at home is more important than ever to support the medicine wheel teachings of having well-balanced physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional health.”

For more information on the ISCA and their projects, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

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