Keeping residents active a priority for O’Leary Recreation Department

Andrew Avery, recreation director for the Town of O’Leary, has been working hard to ensure residents of the town and across the province to stay active during the COVID-19 outbreak while maintaining proper social distancing. One thing the department created to help with this is the O’Leary Active Challenge. The challenge tasks residents to post and share videos one to two minutes in length getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air. Photo submitted

The O’Leary Recreation Department feels just because a person is self-isolating, it doesn’t mean they can’t get some exercise, or enjoy the fresh air.

As a result, the department has issued a challenge to residents of not only the town, but of Prince Edward Island and beyond, called the O’Leary Active Challenge. Announced on March 22, the challenge tasks residents to post and share videos one to two minutes in length getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air. The challenge will last throughout the entire length of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Avery, recreation director for the Town of O’Leary, has been working on ways to keep residents active. The decision to do so came after a discussion with council members earlier in the month. It began with a late evening email on March 12 sent to council to review and discuss possibly cancelling March Break activities due to COVID-19.

“I thought at that time I may have been jumping the gun, but the discussion was needed I felt,” he said. “It was almost overwhelming the speed of how everything moved across North America. By noon Friday, the majority of Municipal Recreation Departments across the province had already cancelled March Break programming, so the decision became more clear for us that we would have to take the same approach.”

He said it’s been frustrating to try and stay positive during this because the recreation department was looking forward to hosting March Break activities for the first time in a few years.

Mr Avery said the motivation for staying active is easier when there’s a group of friends or a team to do activities with, and that sometimes people need a little extra push to get to get more active. He noted that these are unprecedented times, and that it’s unknown how long the world is going to be dealing with the issue of COVID-19.

O’Leary’s recreation department is located inside the town complex, which is currently closed to the public. During this time, Mr Avery said the time he would normally allocate to running programs in the community is now dedicated to finding studies and ideas for residents to keep active at home. Not long after he started his search, Go!PEI announced an initiative for free live online videos to exercise at home.

“It’s really going to be a more attractive feature to see these programs being led by Islanders, for Islanders,” he said. “They did a good job recruiting a number of PEI’s top fitness instructors. They are offering strength training, yoga, cardio, and seniors fitness. I would recommend anyone to take advantage of this.”

Mr Avery said at this moment, going outside is still a possibility, and that as long as people practise good social distancing, going to the park, using a walking track, even going tobogganing are still doable.

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic closed businesses either to the public or for the foreseeable future, it also extended March Break in a way, as schools across the province won’t be opening again until at least April 6. Mr Avery said parents are going to start doing some home schooling during this time, and while writing, reading, and math are important, so is physical activity.

“Ask your son or daughter what new things they learned in gym class. You are showing your child how to do reading exercises the next few weeks, have them show you what activities they learned in gym and do it with them,” he said. “We’re not to old to try a roll, a jump and reach, or a cartwheel, regardless how bad it may look. Remember we still have some snow on the ground right now. Building a snowman is still one of the best ways for families to get winter active.”

Mr Avery said while he’s felt no pressure or has been given any additional tasks from the town, he feels a personal responsibility for O’Leary’s recreation department to help the community get through while the period of social distancing and self-isolation. He said even the smallest event can have the biggest impact, and he’s on the hunt to see what extra things the department can try to bring over the next year, and that his commitment is to bring new opportunities and events to O’Leary.

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