The Summer Fitness Challenge organized by the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) has started.

This is the second year of the Challenge open to all Alberta indigenous peoples aged 10 and over.

Participants take part in various training sessions and then post pictures or videos of themselves on the event’s Facebook page. All information about this year’s challenge can be found there.

Those who take part are entitled to various weekly prizes.

The 10-week program begins today, June 14th, and around 500 people have already signed up. Last year’s opening event drew around 500 participants.

Jacob Hendy, Executive Director of ISCA, hopes the number of this year’s Challenge could double.

“Everyone signs up at the last minute,” Hendy said, adding that many will likely attend once they see people’s Facebook posts. “We’re counting on 800. But I hope we get to 1,000.”

Those who sign up will receive a training plan. The workouts include sit-ups, pushups, squats, and lunges. All types of activity, including walking and running, are encouraged.

“There is no equipment (required),” said Hendy. “It’s free for every indigenous person who registers. There are no costs, no transport and no babysitting required. “

Hendy said ISCA officials were surprised by some of the results from last year’s fitness challenge. It was believed that the youth would be most interested, however 82 percent of the participants were 18 and older.

Another revealing statistic was that 85 percent of the participants were female.

“We thought it would be 50-50 or maybe 60-40,” said Hendy. “We really don’t know (why the majority were female). We have a lot of women who work. They’re working mothers, but they still do. It’s a riddle. I don’t know if (men are) afraid of it. The guys who do this love it and they have benefited tremendously from it. They share it and tell others about it. “

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Hendy also enjoyed seeing how many people like other Facebook posts and encouraging people she didn’t know in some cases.

“They all motivate and support each other and it was amazing,” he said.

The organizers also ask a question of the week. For example, what goals the participants want to achieve.

“We read people’s goals and I started crying the first time,” said Hendy. “You see people and they want to beat cancer, they want to beat diabetes, they want to spend more time with their children, they want their children to get away from phones and video games.”

Hendy emphasized the importance of simply taking part in the challenge.

“The biggest part of it all is that it’s participation based. It’s not a competition, ”he said. “And I always tell everyone, modify, modify, modify. So, if someone is doing pushups and has to get on their knees and maybe only go halfway down, that’s fine. But if you can’t and can only go a quarter of the way down, just go a quarter of the way down. “

Hendy said the fitness challenge started last year to keep people active during the pandemic.

“We can’t control things like visiting family or friends or eating in a restaurant or the fact that jobs may be affected,” said Hendy. “What we can control is our physical health.”

That is why the Summer Fitness Challenge was launched by ISCA.

“These challenges make you physically strong, but it also helps you mentally and then it gets your endorphins going,” said Hendy. “It’s all part of the medicine wheel. It helps them mentally, but also emotionally, to be better parents, better grandparents, better sister. And it also helps them spiritually. “

Hendy said ISCA is the only indigenous sports organization in the country that offers an ongoing fitness program.

“Nobody else does this,” he said, adding that some other organizations may have organized a virtual jogging event over the weekend. “But there is nothing that works like us every day.”

Hendy said last year’s participants included representatives from almost all 46 First Nations in the province, as well as the eight Métis settlements.

There were also many immigrants from indigenous peoples who lived in cities.

“A lot of people who live in urban areas love it because they feel connected to their people and their culture, because they usually don’t feel that much in an urban area,” he said. “But they were part of this online community and they made and made all these great friends and it was pretty special to see them all.”

By Sam Laskaris, Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative,,

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