When it comes to beating chronic disease this winter, staying active is at the top of Dr. Paul Jordaan’s prescription list.
The 33-year-old physician in High Level says recurring illness is a big issue especially during the winter in the rural regions of Northern Alberta.
Dr. Jordaan sees his job as being an advocate for recreation to reduce disease, but motivating people to buy into taking care of themselves isn’t always easy.
“There’s only so much you can do for a patient,” said the general practitioner at Aurora North Medical Clinic. “Unfortunately, people have a pretty good excuse that it’s pretty cold outside.”
“Diet in our current society is extremely tough to maintain…
but the exercise part is supposed to be accessible to everyone.”
– Dr. Paul Jordaan
Moving to High Level from South Africa in 2014, he left rugby behind and picked up hockey to practise what he preaches regarding physical activity.
“You can talk about diet, but diet in our current society is extremely tough to maintain … but the exercise part is supposed to be accessible to everyone.”
Dr. Jordaan has some practical advice for diabetic patients that is insightful for all. He encourages them to run a practical experiment on themselves, suggesting they test their blood glucose levels, do 10 minutes of intense exercise, and check their levels again.
This experiment helps illustrate the difference that exercise makes, and underscores that people need to be proactive in the management of their chronic disease.
He uses the same test for patients with high blood pressure, suggesting that they exercise for 20-30 minutes, sit for 10 minutes, then check their blood pressure again to see that it’s lower.
“Usually when people start doing that … they start realizing the positive impact we can have,” said Dr. Jordaan. “It’s pretty motivating for them to give them a little bit of power back over their chronic disease.”
“If people work together and see others
get better with exercise, it’s motivating.”
– Dr. Jordaan
For the elderly, he says frailty is a disease that can be curbed.
“We should keep exercising into our old age as well,” Dr. Jordaan added.
He’s sad to see so many care-dependent seniors, but paints the possibility of a brighter future.
“If people work together and see others get better with exercise, it’s motivating,” he said.
About four hours south of High Level in Sexsmith, Melody Sample is on the ground as a wellness coordinator, engaging people of all ages in physical activities.
“We attempt to keep people active,” explains Sample, who has been in her role for four years with the non-profit Sexsmith Wellness Coalition. Programming mainstays are year-round running and walking groups, and the coalition also offers yoga and cross-country skiing, minimizing costs by borrowing skis and poles from the local high school.
Five to 20 people are involved in each session, and Sample says the support is substantial.
“The social component of everything
we do is really important.”
– Melody Sample
“The response from the community is definitely why we do it,” she said.
She’s seen friendships develop through communal exercise.
“The social component of everything we do is really important,” said Sample.
She said Sexsmith didn’t always have the programming they currently do, and it took some effort from citizens to encourage the town council to see physical activity as a priority. Today, the priority the community places on physical activity is proven by Sample being in a 25-hour a week paid position supported by local funding and government grants.
She recommends that other communities looking to encourage active lifestyles among their members start small with a walking group or a fun run. She also prioritizes keeping costs minimal for participants and advertising.
“Make it easy for people to join you,” said Sample, noting the coalition costs $25 annually for programming.