Getting Strong by Getting Stronger

Edmonton’s Native Healing Center is helping Indigenous women get stronger in every way; physically, mentally and always through relationships. ISKWEW Health (meaning Woman in Cree) is providing health and fitness programming for Indigenous women in Edmonton, which has one of the fastest-growing urban Indigenous populations in Canada. ISKWEW offers programming on healthy eating and, since the recent kitchen renovation, is running a weekly Collective Kitchen where participants learn about healthy affordable meals and get to cook and eat together. It also offers a full range of fitness opportunities such as yoga and Zumba. The fitness studio has expanded and provides training in using body bars, free weights, squat racks, treadmills, battle ropes, bosu balls, resistance bands and medicine balls.

An important sign of success has been the increased number of women who access the fitness studio.
Often Indigenous women are uncomfortable pursuing health and fitness goals in non-Indigenous or
mixed-gender settings. The fitness studio, with its coaching and camaraderie, encourages the women to
step out of their comfort zones and keep coming back.

There have been a number of highlights over the past year:

  • A support group for women wanting to establish healthy eating habits
  • A team challenge. Each team was comprised of 6 women who logged their physical
    activity for one month. 11 teams signed up – 66 women.
  • 18 women signed up for the Servus Edmonton half marathon and prepared by training
    for three months.

One of the unexpected outcomes for ISKWEW Health has been the role modelling that happens when
women bring their children with them, the children often start to get active as well. Women may come for the physical fitness opportunities, but they often stay because the encouragement and relationships they experience help them deal with depression and anxiety. They get strong enough to change patterns of isolation and withdrawal.