By JESSICA HENDRIKS
9/11 changed the lives of many people.
That day led to Michelle MacIntosh, a Niagara College counsellor, to start working out, in 2001. She had returned from providing trauma counselling at Ground Zero to police officers, and responders at 9/11. She has continued ever since.
“It was the first time that the things that I had been doing for self-care weren’t working, and I really needed a physical outlet, so I started working out,” says MacIntosh.
Ontario is investing $7.2 million through the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund to develop new sports and recreation programs and educate people on the importance of physical activity.
Working out has many benefits. It benefits us physically and mentally.
It controls weight, makes muscles stronger, helps prevent diseases, improves moods, helps handle stress and anxiety better, boosts energy and helps us sleep better.
Seadon Pereira, a therapist at Niagara College, says working out keeps lungs happy and active, helps with general weight loss and helps your joints. It releases feel-good hormones, which help combat mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
“It has a good distracting effect,” he says. He explains that you become “hypnotized” and your brain quietens because you focus on your workout and breathing.
Experts strongly recommend doing at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly in order to see results. Other than working out, this can also include running, dancing, swimming and cycling.
Ontario is providing $224,000 to Special Olympics Ontario for the Partners in Play program. This will encourage and help young special needs athletes to do sports such as track and field, basketball, soccer and swimming.
The fund also supports the government’s Healthy Kids strategy and its Stepping Up framework.
Michael Coteau, minister of Tourism, Culture and Sports, says, “The Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund supports sport and recreation organizations in communities all across the province that work hard to provide opportunities for Ontario families to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. It helps us achieve our vision of a province where children and adults are active and engaged throughout their lives.”
Government spokespeople say, “Sport, recreation and physical activity contribute to positive economic and social outcomes, such as increased productivity, improved student achievement and reduced health care costs.”
MacIntosh does yoga, runs and works out and says she gains many benefits from it.
“One of the things we know about working out is that it changes our brain chemistry, which allows us to process stress better and feel better both physically and mentally.”
She says she has seen a big difference in her life and the lives of her students, and knows if she doesn’t do her workout, she is more tired and has less patience.
Since she works, teaches meditation, and is a mom, she also uses her workouts as an opportunity to socialize and make new friends.
Erin Armstrong, a student in the Fitness and Health Promotion program here, started working out when she was in Grade 10 as she took up rowing, which she did until she graduated. She says it’s “amazing” how much better she feels after going to the gym.
“You see physical gain, you see progress within your body and you feel better about yourself,” says Armstrong.
She admits she has compared herself to others and has felt discouraged but adds it’s really important to just focus on yourself and not worry about what others are doing.
“Not only is it good just in that sense by feeling confident in yourself but it actually scientifically releases endorphins in your brain. It just makes you feel a million times better, not just by seeing progress but you just feel good, which makes you think better and more clearly.”
MacIntosh says, “Find a buddy. Have someone that you don’t want to let down. Find someone to go and do your workout with.”
Pereira also offers some advice to people who want to start working out. He says you should combine healthy eating with exercising, address any health issues with your doctor that may be of concern, start slowly then build your way up and pick something to do that interests you.
He adds it is a good idea to get a personal trainer because they will help you plan your workouts according to what you should be doing, what works best for your body and mind, and your goals.