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Stay healthy and happy by staying fit

When the COVID-19 pandemic sounded the final buzzer on many sports last year, it left a void around the world for fans and participants.
 
That was especially true for community sports, where camaraderie, competition and physical activity were an important part of the lives of military members and their families.
 
You can still have sports in your life
But even though many organized sports as we know it can’t continue right now because of restrictions and health protocols, there are plenty of ways to put some sports back in our lives, says Valérie Savard, Senior Manager for Canadian Armed Forces Sports, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.
 
”The key is incorporating sport-specific physical activity,” she says.
 
People should look at the sports they usually play and practise related skills on their own, with people in their household or with their group “bubble.”
 
“For example, juggling with a tennis racquet and a ball,” Savard says. “You can do it with your partner, you can do it alone, you can do it with a wall, you can do it with your kids. If you have a skilled dog, you can probably do it with your dog, so it can bring back the ball.
 
“All kinds of things can be practised.”
 
Hand-eye co-ordination can be honed through catching, throwing and running with a basketball. Footwork and passing drills with a soccer ball or a street hockey game with your kids can help prepare someone whenever there’s a return to play.
 
“It’s not because you cannot get to the rink that you won’t get the benefit of sport; it’s just a matter of introducing the game to your physical activities that you can still benefit from sport. At the end of the day, are we not playing sport because it’s fun in the first place?”

Sport, exercise, activity – all have benefits
Sport is distinctive in that it has a set of rules and goals with an objective to excel in specific skills, yet it encompasses physical activity and exercise, she notes.
 
Physical activity relates to the movement carried out by the skeletal muscle that requires energy. It’s very general and includes throwing, catching, hide and seek, snowshoeing, dancing and running.
 
Exercise is a category of physical activity, Savard says. It’s more structured and repetitive, with intentional movement to improve or maintain physical fitness specific to a certain objective. Examples are weight training and cardio workouts.
 
What all three have in common is improving mental, social and physical health – areas that need a lift now more than ever because of the stress and health concerns people face during a pandemic.
 
“There’s a lot of research out there that links physical activity, exercise and sports with boosting our energy levels so we can get more done,” Savard says.
 
“Sports has been known as physical activity that helps manage and reduce stress, tension, depression, anxiety and anger.
 
“It also develops a healthier state of mind, like promoting positive attitude and outlook. It helps to block negative thoughts and distracts us from daily worries.”
 
Social interaction during a pandemic can still occur through physical activities with family, neighbours and friends while following health protocols. Online searches can find a range of virtual programs that offer interactions, she adds.
 
Take it day by day 
Understandably, motivation to be physically active may be lacking during these challenging times.
 
“What’s key in the message is to start slow, to start small, to do it often, if not daily,” Savard says. “It’s when you start to introduce those habits in a small way that you get to develop this habit and get more motivated through the success you’re going to feel about it.
 
“There’s no drugs nor miracles or magic recipe that we can get, unfortunately, but create that daily exposure to physical activity and movement so you can actually stay sane and make sure that you maintain health mentally and physically.”