Jan. 9, 2015

Doing the Werklund workout: Undergrads resolve to be Health Champions

Students make commitments to physical and mental well-being; Olympian Kristina Groves to give keynote talk.

As January rolls around, conversations inevitably turn to resolutions. While it’s natural to use the new year as a catalyst for making big changes, the odds are that something started haphazardly won't stick.

A real change in lifestyle requires a change in mindset, and with that, a full understanding of the benefits and commitment involved in fostering change itself. That’s exactly what the Werklund School of Education is doing with its Health Champions initiative.

"When we talk about health, we focus on three areas,” explains Gavin Peat, one of the co-ordinators of this year’s Health Champions program for pre-service teachers in the Werklund School. “There’s active living, which keys in on physical activity. And that’s important, of course. 

“But it’s also important to consider healthy eating as well as positive well-being, or mental health, in order to develop a rounded human being.” 

Peat says the idea of creating Health Champions starts with the students, most of whom who will soon find themselves at the front of classrooms full of children of all ages. In an initiative supported by school boards, the Werklund Health Champions share what they learn with their students as well as with their peers, creating a community that sees healthy living as a regular lifestyle choice.

For two days this week, health professionals in all three areas have held sessions with 100 Werklund undergrads who have voluntarily signed up to participate. The students participated in lectures, discussions, group activities, and a resource fair.

The program will be capped on Friday with a keynote talk by Kristina Groves, speedskater, UCalgary student, and Olympic medalist. The campus community is invited to attend her talk.

One of the partners of the Health Champions program is the Faculty of Kinesiology, where research, teaching and outreach programming are built around the idea that exercise and preventive medicine are key to physical and emotional health.

Kinesiology began as a school of physical education and pedagogy remains an important part of the faculty, which is why Associate Dean Tina Gabriele says Kinesiology is excited to be part of the event. “We feel that it is crucial for our teachers to be positive role models around physical activity, stress management, body image and other healthy behaviours,” says Gabriele.

“This conference is designed to provide our future teachers with the skills and strategies to do just that.”

The presentation by Kristina Groves takes place today at 1 p.m. in KNB 132; seating is limited and is first come, first served.