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The Fit Brain BY ROBERT SCHWABENBAUER Co-Founder - Mental Rescue Society

Exercise may be the most effective way to deal with depression. It’s 9 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning in February 2016. My wife, Carrie, and I are heading out for our long run as we prepare for the Mammoth Lakes Half Marathon in California, that following June. Not only does it land on my 40th birthday but this particular year, the run happens to be on Father’s Day. Carrie and I decide to dedicate this run to our fathers, whom we both lost, and to a new chapter in my life. I have long understood the effects of exercise and my mood since I began running in my early 30s. I would hear running groups mentioning things like, “You can outrun your negative energy,” and, “when you cross the finish line you’ll be a new and happy person.” As I started to train for more and more races, I

FITNESS CAN BEGIN AT HOME BY MARY-HELEN CLARK Before starting at the University of Alberta, Qasim Ali was determined to make a lifestyle change. The engineering student had been overweight, but had dreams of modelling and someday starting a clothing line. He wanted to get into his best shape but felt too insecure to go to the gym. “To me, the gym was a place that all of the healthy and fit people went, and to be associated with people like that was something I could only dream of,” Ali says. Ali isn’t alone in this feeling. Many people often say that the idea of joining a gym when they are already overweight is intimidating. Sometimes, so intimidating that they give up on getting healthy all together. Ali opted to work out at home with DVDs he purchased from a bargain 42



realized it was true. With each day of training, my mood was slowly improving and I started to feel better as a person. I became more confident, positive, energetic, and just generally happier. Even when faced with challenges, I was able to tackle them with a clearer and more concise mind. There are countless books, papers, and articles written that prove exercise may be the safest, easiest, and cheapest way to treat depression. For myself though, I turn to personal experience. My father suffered from manic depression for nearly his entire life. He was on a cocktail of drugs to help treat his depression. Pumped full of lithium, through weekly psychiatry visits and countless blood tests, I watched his moods shift from take-on-the-world-happy to never-leave-thebedroom-depressed. There was one thing though, that always lifted his mood: a good walk in

the river valley. He would breathe in the fresh air, deeply. By the end of the walk his happiness seemed real, not drug induced. When Paul Semeniuk and I formed Mental Rescue Society a few years ago, we struggled with which direction to take when it comes to raising money for mental health awareness and initiatives. Both being active, we naturally started running races, climbing stairs for 24 hours, and riding bikes to raise funds. What we found is that being more active as a community has a positive impact on mental health and exercising with a group brings everyone together. Those who exercise as a group were generally happier. I would encourage anyone who suffers from any form of depression to get outside and walk, join a gym, swim, bike, lift weights, or do yoga. If you’re really ambitious, train for a half or full marathon, join a walking or running group, or take part in the

rack. After several months, Ali chose to take the step to use the University of Alberta’s gym facilities, where he now visits several times a week.

machines, and no rushing to the gym to find out that your hot yoga class is full. You are in complete control of your fitness routine.

“I had forgotten that fitness is battle within you, and once I realized that, I stopped comparing my beginning with someone else’s middle and gained the courage to go to the gym. It’s been the best awakening of my life.” Ali says.

For Johanna Vandermey, a registered Practical Nurse and single Mom, the gym wasn’t an option. Between caring for her young son on her own and attending nursing school, and working nights at a karaoke bar there was no time and no money for a gym membership. But Vandermey wants to be a role model for her son, and inspire others, so she thought outside of the box. Using yoga and aerobics videos she found on YouTube, and trading child minding services for free passes at a yoga studio, Vandermey was able to lose weight and build her confidence without spending money.

While the gym is a great place to get fit, build a support system, and meet your goals it can be an unattainable goal. From lack of child care, to financial hardships, or the intimidation that Ali and may others may feel, some people just cannot go to the gym. Luckily, healthy living isn’t exclusive to a gym. There are many ways to stay in shape at home. From workout DVDs, home gyms, and even workout apps like DDP Yoga Now, working out at home and around a busy schedule is sometimes the best option. If the only time you have is midnight, you have the luxury of popping in a DVD and getting your sweat on or going to your garage and lifting some weights in your home gym. There’s no membership fees, no waits for

“I chose home workouts because I was a broke student parent, overly busy lady,” Vandermey says. “I wanted to get healthy for my son, but I couldn’t afford a membership anywhere. Thanks to my new career, I can afford a membership at a gym now, but I still keep up my home workouts because some-

many great events this city has to offer. It’s not just for those suffering or dealing with a mental illness either. Physical fitness is a big part of emotional well-being, and it doesn’t take much. Even starting with a short walk can have a big impact. You can log onto our website at and volunteer or join one of the events we host every year. Stay fit, stay healthy, stay happy! All the best in 2017!

times classes just don’t fit my work schedule.” In addition to working out from home, Vandermey created a Facebook group called The Squatties for friends to help them remain accountable. The group now has over 200 members from all over Canada. Through this group, Vandermey shares fitness videos and tricks to help members stay motivated, regardless of financial situation or schedule. “I started the group so six friends could get through a 30-day-squat challenge because I learned that having a solid support system will increase your success. I wanted to build a community of people who wanted to make a difference, and use social media for a positive purpose,” Vandermey says. There are so many amazing ways to get fit. If you’re feeling intimidated by the idea of a gym, why not follow Ali’s example and try some home workouts to build your confidence before taking that step? However, if you’re never ready, that’s okay. Maybe when it comes to your fitness needs, there’s no place like home.

YEGFITNESS - March/Apr 2017

YEGFITNESS - March/Apr 2017