A physician advocacy group is urging Manitobans to refocus on their physical health after more than two years of the pandemic in which an active lifestyle may have been put on the back burner.
Doctors Manitoba says recent research it commissioned suggests that many people have reported that their health habits – physical activities such as exercise, diet, screening for medical conditions and more – have since worsened. outbreak of COVID-19 in the province in March 2020.
Now it’s started an online campaign to provide advice and tools designed to help people get back on track and improve their health and mental health.
University student Amber Perron said she started exercising at home during the pandemic, but her level of physical activity still dropped.
“I certainly wasn’t leaving the house that much,” Perron said. “I wasn’t going out on weekends to go sledding or anything like that that I normally would.”
The president-elect of Doctors Manitoba says getting back on track doesn’t have to involve major changes right away.
“We also emphasize that even small steps like focusing on one change to start with are a step in the right direction and can make a big difference to your health,” said Dr. Candace Bradshaw.
A small step is to perform routine medical examinations.
“Some concerning things that we’re seeing right now are patients coming in and showing up later in stages of the disease that we would have preferred, of course, to catch earlier, and patients as well,” Bradshaw said.
“It’s becoming an incredibly urgent rush for the healthcare system right now to get urgent tests and get treatments moving, to catch up with everyone.”
This rush of people with more acute illnesses and conditions will likely continue to add to Manitoba’s backlog of surgeries, procedures and diagnostic tests unless the province can open more services, Bradshaw said.
“I think we may just be seeing the beginning of a big crisis,” the doctor said.
Perron said she hasn’t seen her doctor as often in the past two years as she normally would.
“Not so much out of fear of COVID, but [I] I’ve really gotten used to being at home and I don’t really feel like leaving,” said Perron, who adds that she plans to resume routine annual medical checkups.
Getting active again can help ward off certain illnesses, and Miguel Fictoria says the trick is to stay positive and focused on those benefits.
“If you find your fitness level isn’t what it used to be, you can start with something as simple as a brisk walk, or like a light jog, or gain mobility, work on your flexibility, playing with your kids,” said Fitoria, head coach of Sport Manitoba’s fitness center team.
Kelly Einarson is an instructor for a stroller fitness class for new parents. Besides sweating it out, Einarson said there’s a benefit to just being together in a group class.
“New moms really need each other’s support and for all sorts of reasons — mental health and staying active helps,” Einarson said.
Lynne Opperman says she kept walking during the pandemic but couldn’t do something else she loved: go dancing on the weekends.
“Sometimes it was just a few hours of dancing or an hour of dancing” before the pandemic, she said. “But, I mean, you’re still going out, exercising, and hanging out with other people.”
Opperman said she’s happy to get back to it now with her husband on Saturday nights and hopes to go on Fridays as well once the club they go to starts offering that option again.
“But for now, Saturday is just as good,” she said during a walk with her dog in Assiniboine Park.
Doctors ‘need to take stock’ with patients
Bradshaw, a family physician, reiterated that in addition to the tools and advice offered by Doctors Manitoba’s new campaign, she encourages patients to return to see their doctor if it’s been a while, and not just for their physical health.
“You also have to come in and say, you know what, here’s the inventory, here’s how I sleep, here’s how I eat, here’s how I function at work and school, and I’m not well,” a- she declared.
“It doesn’t always mean that coming to the doctor means you have to leave with a prescription. It can just mean that I have to check in with you: what’s going on, how it affects you, if I need to follow up with you,” Bradshaw said.
“If we can start with maybe a few simple, basic things like getting more fresh air or daylight, eating better, getting physical activity…then we’ll work from there.”