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Fitness and nutrition course takes a big-picture approach to health

When it comes to fitness, appearances can be deceiving. It’s harder to feel good than to look good these days, and it’s even harder to do either for very long without understanding the basics of wellness.

Back in 1998, Health Canada committed itself to the goal of reducing physical inactivity in Canada by 10 per cent by 2003, thereby reducing the burden that poor health and our couch potato lifestyle is placing on our economy.

It is estimated that our lack of overall fitness costs Canadian businesses $2.8 billion each year in employee absenteeism. And while it is sometimes difficult to prove the correlation between certain illnesses, such as coronary diseases and type II diabetes to lifestyle, it is believed that at least $3 billion in national health care costs can be attributed to poor health.

When Health Minister Allan Rock addressed the annual convention of Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals (Can-Fit-Pro) last August, he enlisted the services of the organization and its thousands of certified fitness professionals to help achieve the 10 per cent goal.

"You have direct access not only to the already converted, but also to inactive Canadians who have yet to understand or buy into active living," said Rock. One in three Canadians is overweight, according to the Health Minister. Type II diabetes is one of the fastest growing preventable diseases in the country, resulting in approximately 5,500 deaths each year.

"I’m looking to you for advice on targeted and innovative strategies to reach those people, to increase their understanding that fitness goes beyond achieving a certain body shape or weight. They need to recognize that it plays an important role in achieving better long-term health. And I’m looking to you to influence others."

In Whistler, the local Can-Fit-Pro representative is Darlene Samer, a Nutrition and Wellness specialist who is excited to have an opportunity to teach the public what it means to be well.

"I’m excited about this program, and I don’t usually get excited about fitness programs or diets," says Samer. "I’m quite skeptical of most things, any fad diet or new exercise program – they may work for some people, but my question to them always is ‘Can you sustain them? Where are you going to be in six months? Do you understand what you’re doing to your body?’ If I don’t believe in a program I can’t teach it."

Most fad diets and exercises deliver short-term benefits, a loss in weight or an increase in muscle mass, but they rarely last. The only real way to get fit and stay there is to adopt a complete healthy lifestyle, "which is hard for people to do because there is just so much conflicting information out there," says Samer.

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