Northwest Territories Residents Team Up to Walk to Tuk
Walk to Tuk taps team spirit and community pride to get NWT residents outside and active - despite the winter weather
“Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges to leading a healthy lifestyle that we see in the Northwest Territories especially during the winter months,” said Sheena Tremblay, Active Communities Coordinator of NWT Recreation and Parks Association.
The lack of sunlight during the winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder, which saps motivation. Winter weather also causes many people to stay inside, rather than go outside and be active.
But NWT Recreation and Parks is helping people get excited about healthy living by giving them a good reason to stay active from January through March. The Walk to Tuk Challenge “encourages people to form teams and together ‘walk the distance’ of the Mackenzie River from Fort Providence to Tuktoyaktuk. Teams collectively attempt to walk a total of 1658km, between January and March,” according to the organization.
Health issues related to a lack of physical activity are especially prominent in the Northwest Territories. According to NWT Recreation and Parks, “The 2011 NWT Health Status Report states that 63% of NWT residents are overweight or obese compared to 51% of other Canadians.”
“NWT residents living in smaller communities may be more susceptible to communicable diseases, mental illnesses and socio-economic disparities. Currently only 41% of the NWT population participates in enough physical activity to maintain or improve their health compared to 53% of other Canadians.“
The good news is that participants in the Walk to Tuk Challenge are tackling these issues head on. In 2014, over 1,600 people from 17 NWT communities (representing 4% of the NWT population and half of its communities) participated in the challenge.
“Walk to Tuk helps individuals in isolated communities become inspired to be active, by participating on a team with friends and collectively attempting to achieve their goal of reaching Tuktoyaktuk,” said Tremblay.
By tapping into the motivating power of team spirit, community pride, and concrete goal setting, Walk to Tuk has helped participants built a habit of active living and reduce stress. It also helps that the walk take participants along some of the most beautiful and scenic places in the country.
“Walk to Tuk highlights the Mackenzie River, the communities along the River and the people of the Northwest Territories,” said Tremblay. “The challenge is unique because the distance walked is visually represented and tracked along the Mackenzie River starting from Fort Providence and finishing in Tuktoyaktuk a small community on the Arctic Ocean. The challenge captures your imagination of actually walking the length of the river.”
For Joe Caidler of Norman Wells, the challenge was an opportunity to improve his overall well being. “Once I’m out walking I really enjoy the quiet time,” said Caidler, during the half-way point of his 2013 challenge. “I am already feeling better – I’ve lost 10 pounds, and my blood pressure is better. This challenge has turned my life around. Alasdair (team captain) has been a great ambassador for the town and for this challenge. What’s neat about our team is that everyone is at different levels, but each person’s contribution adds to the total, and we all encourage each other.”
Tremblay said that she was looking forward to the 2015 Walk to Tuk and excited to see how the challenge would grow and reach more participants. She had strong words of encouragement for NWT residents interested in the challenge.
“Don’t give up! You don’t have to start big, just step outside and go for a walk!” Tremblay said. “Find a friend or involve your family and together enjoy the benefits of being active. It can be much more motivating and fun when being active is not only about the physical benefits but enjoying the social benefits with friends! Also don’t let bad weather stop you, twenty four hours of darkness and -40 temperatures aren’t stopping NWT residents!”
The Walk to Tuk Challenge is a finalist of The Play Exchange! All six finalists were announced in September, and will be featured on a national television program in January 2015. Canadians will have the chance to vote for a grand prize winner, who will receive up to $1 million to put their idea into action. Stay tuned for more information on the television program and voting, coming soon!