MEND continues success in Prince Albert

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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With childhood obesity on the rise, many families are looking for a way to stay active.

Janet Daigneault explains what the MEND program can do for families during the Community Networking Coalition on Tuesday.

During the Community Networking Coalition meeting on Tuesday, Janet Daigneault made a presentation about MEND -- Mind, Exercise, Body, Do It!

“MEND is a free healthy lifestyle program that combines physical activity with healthy eating … for a lasting lifestyle change,” Daigneault said. “It is a program that was developed to help fight the rise of childhood obesity … I think we all know that is a pretty big concern right now.”

Daigneault said MEND was created to not only to fight the rise of childhood obesity, but also to help with the social and health implications of children being overweight.

“There are few proven cost-effective and scalable weight management programs for children,” Daigneault said.

Childhood obesity has many impacts on those who are going through it, Daigneault explained.

“We know that children who are (overweight) have decreased self-esteem and self-confidence and added health problems such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure,” Daigneault said.

They can also deal with many social problems as well, such as discrimination.

“MEND aims to empower families and children to become fitter and healthier and live happier lives,” Daigneault said. “The College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan brought the program to Saskatchewan in 2012 … (They) took MEND and got it started in Saskatoon in 2012.”

The initial plan was to bring MEND to Prince Albert the following year and then to the southern part of the province in 2014. So far, they have been on track.

“The MEND program is available right now for children ages seven to 13,” Daigneault said. “We are looking for families, including siblings.”

The first portion of the program is theory, where the leaders do activities and games based around nutrition. One of the activities is going to a grocery store and reading the labels on food packages.

“Some sessions are based on the difference between hunger and a craving, food labels or unrefined and refined grains,” Daigneault said.

The second hour of the program is dedicated to going into the gym and getting active.

“That is the fun part for the kids because they like to be active,” Daigneault said. “I think that is what we are trying to do and remind them that we are trying to get kids active.”

This generation of children is not very active and seems to live more sedentary lives, playing on computers and iPads instead of being active.

“I think our generation, with our cultures, we are very sedentary,” Daigneault said. “The children of the generations now are lacking that playtime and getting outside playing.

“When I was a kid, that was what I was doing but I find now kids will watch TV or play on their iPads so I think it is a big problem in society today,” Daigneault said.

The program helps families learn how to have an active lifestyle.

“The kids get to go into the gym and play a non-competitive fun time -- it just gets them exercising for the whole hour,” Daigneault said. “Kids just don’t get enough (exercise). I am trying to get kids physically active everyday, at least for an hour.”

The program is for anyone looking for help, Daigneault said.

“Maybe they have a fussy eating in their families or maybe there is concern about their kids not getting enough physical activity time or maybe they just want to learn more about nutrition and behaviours with food,” Daigneault said. “Families who are interested in making a healthy lifestyle change, getting their children active and are concerned about their diet -- MEND can help.”

One thing Daigneault stressed is MEND is not a weight loss program for children.

“I really don’t like that maybe it is targeted as being a weight loss program when it really isn’t,” Daigneault said. “We are looking to empower families by sharing information and brainstorming how we can make safe, healthy changes in our lives to benefit our families in the long run. It is kind of a preventative program I guess.”

Children in the program will receive a backpack, T-shirt and water bottle, as well as a copy of the curriculum.

“This is not a super strict curriculum,” Daigneault said. “It is a lot of sharing information. It is really simple information. We are not there to preach about making (a big change). Making small changes will make a difference in the long run.”

The latest program started on Monday and will run on Mondays and Thursdays for 10 weeks. Although the program just started, Daigneault said people can still register if there is space. Another session will start in April.

Anyone interested in learning more about the free program can contact Daigneault at 306-960-4568 or through email at jdaigneault@sasksport.sk.ca.

Organizations: College of Kinesiology, Prince Albert, Community Networking Coalition University of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

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