Rocky Mountain House: Sport is for Life

Physical activity and sport are a priority for the Town of Rocky Mountain House, a 2017 Communities ChooseWell Developing Healthy Policies Award winner.

“Sport is for life, whether someone becomes an elite athlete, or simply chooses to stay active in adulthood,” says Town of Rocky Mountain House Recreation and Community Services director, Roger Smolnicky.

Rocky Mountain House is part of P.L.A.Y. West Country (Physical Literacy and You), whose goal is to keep youth and adults physically active in Rocky Mountain House and area. P.L.A.Y. West Country follows Canada’s Sport for Life program, with the goal of everyone learning the fundamental skills to enjoy sports for life. “By not specializing too young, you’re developing more well-rounded individuals who will become better athletes,” explains Smolnicky, Sport for Life’s incoming chair.

P.L.A.Y. West Country also wants to see higher participation rates from the Indigenous community. To this end, Rocky Mountain House is hosting a province-wide workshop, the Aboriginal Long-term Participant Development Pathway program, this spring.

Rocky Mountain House is taking a number of steps to encourage physical activity for all. The town is involved in the Prescription to Get Active program, which sees physicians prescribing physical activity for patients who need more of it. People with a doctor’s prescription for exercise receive a one-month free pass to the Christenson Sports & Wellness Centre, to encourage them to pursue an active lifestyle. Thanks to Prescription to Get Active, the recreation centre has seen a 30 per cent return rate among program participants.

The town is encouraging residents to walk more and is budgeting for pathway development, with an eye to ensuring pathway connectivity. Rocky Mountain House is also looking at connecting pathways into the nearby provincial park multi-use pathway system at Twin Lakes – Crimson Lake Provincial Park.

Another initiative is installing stationary bikes at all local elementary schools. “Studies have shown that a lot of kids have a lot of energy to burn. In the classroom, if they’re able to jump on a bike it helps them control that excess energy, and they can still participate in class,” Smolnicky notes. “And for kids who are lower energy, getting on a bike helps them increase their energy levels to participate in class.”

Health living includes healthy eating. At the town’s new recreation centre, the Christenson Sports & Wellness Centre, Two Sisters Catering provides healthy food options in addition to regular concession services. The menu, developed in conjunction with Alberta Health Services, includes choices with less deep frying and more salads, fresh vegetables and fruits.

At both the Christenson Sports & Wellness Centre and Credit Union Co-op Aquatic Centre, healthy food initiatives are a priority. For example, with the vending machine offerings, “we’re encouraging kids to make the right choices,” Smolnicky says.

He’s happy to share what Rocky Mountain House has learned, with others.

“Come visit!” he says. “We could sit down and have great conversations, give information and share what we’re doing. Give us a call. We’ll help out as much as we can.”