Management, Moderation and the Meaning of Life

June 21 1993

Management, Moderation and the Meaning of Life

June 21 1993

Management, Moderation and the Meaning of Life

In his recent book Health and Fitness Excellence, Dr. Robert Cooper warns, “We are about to enter the 21st century with a culture in which many of the brightest people have become obsessed with caring for their bodies and minds - at the same time that the world around them is falling apart due to a lack of caring.”

A healthy Canada is not about fanaticism. Nor is health promotion a radically new idea. The belief that health is a societal and environmental issue, as well as a personal one, can be traced back to the early social reforms of the 18th century.

A healthy Canada is about balance, integration, caring and equality. It is about thinking globally and acting locally. Old-fashioned ideas such as managing the environment, moderate living and reconnecting with the meaning of life are back in style.

Managing the Environment

Public opinion polls continue to show that Canadians recognize the importance of a high-quality, green environment to health. To achieve this, warns Our Common Future, the report of the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development, our environmental resources must be man-

aged in a sustainable way.

Canadians are responding with environmentally considerate lifestyles. In 1990, 65 per cent of Canadians recycled, 59 per cent bought products made of recycled materials and 22 per cent (some 4.5 million people) composted their vegetable, fruit and garden waste.

Now, people are combining their urge to do something positive for the environment with the enjoyment of physical activity in the great outdoors. “Going for Green is a win-win combination,” says Michel Bédard, Director of Fitness Canada, Fitness and Amateur Sport. “By combining active living with environmental citizenship, you can enhance your personal quality of life as well as the planet’s.”

Walk, wheel, cycle or skate for short trips. Cars are the biggest source of greenhouse gases and the largest single cause of smog. Brisk walking, wheeling in a wheelchair, roller-skating and cycling are alternative ways to get from here to there.

Find your bicycle a piece of the road. Cycling advocates are lobbying for a network of safe cycling lanes in communities across Canada, and for accessible bicycle parking for employees. Search for the best and safest available route and ride your bike to work or school, remember to wear your helmets,

and encourage your colleagues to do the same. If five million Canadians switched to bicycles for short trips, there would be a reduction of as much as 30 metric tonnes of polluting car emissions over a six-week period.

Use your feet and the bus or subway to get to and from work. Walk all the way or a few extra blocks on either end of your trip. Take a flight or two of stairs, instead of the elevator or escalator, when you get to your destination. If half the workers in Canada who live within walking distance of work left their cars at home, their efforts would save some 22 million litres of gasoline per year.

Participate in recreational sports. Cross-country ski, skate, play badminton, beach volleyball or soccer. Most communities offer outdoor recreation activities that get you involved in the outdoors.

Start at home. Yard work (mowing, raking, digging, etc.) is enjoyable active living. Avoid chemicals, and compost your yard waste. The average Canadian household throws away about 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of garbage every year. Yard and lawn waste make up about one-quarter of that amount.

Plant a vegetable garden. Gardening is Canadians’ second mostpopular physical activity (after walk-

ing). You can rent a garden plot from the city if you do not have room at home. Look for advice on “drug-free” gardening. Your rewards: feeling great, homegrown flowers and lots of fresh vegetables.

Adopt a stream or river. You can enjoy a waterway on foot or in a canoe and play a stewardship role at the same time. Clean up any debris on the banks and keep an eye out for changes in the shoreline, habitat, wildlife and the water itself. A conservation officer or park staff member can guide you in what to look for.


In their breakthrough book Healthy Pleasures, authors Robert Ornstein and David Sobel propose a new way to man-


Just in time. As old ideas like health promotion and sustainable development are rejuvenated in the lead-up to the 21st century, Health and Welfare Canada has released the new Canada’s Food Guide to Fiealthy Eating. It replaces the old guide, first developed in 1942 at a time when Canadians suffered from nutrient deficiencies due to food shortages.

Times have changed. The new food guide takes a total diet approach, guiding consumers who have a wide range of energy needs and enjoy a wide variety of foods. “It is based on a philosophy that there is no such thing as good or bad food,” say Heather Nielsen, Chief of Nutrition in Health and Welfare Canada’s Health Promotion Directorate.

The new guide includes a visual representation of the need to eat different amounts from each food group (a rainbow shows that grain products, vegetables and fruit should be eaten most often). Other changes include the addition of key messages, an “other foods” category and a revised servings guide that takes into account people’s varying energy needs. A free copy of the new Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating is available at local public health units across the country.

age health, with less effort and more fun. The key is the pleasure principle, because what we enjoy is likely to be good for us. Using the latest research in biology and psychology, Ornstein and Sobel conclude that the keys to healthy living include positive thinking, humor, helping others and moderation in lifestyle practices.

In the spring issue of The Wellness Report, editor Donald Ardell describes a recent talk by a physician who organized his entire lecture around the well-known phrase of “moderation in all things”. His advice? “Moderation in all things except laughter, vegetables, fish and sex.” The speaker noted that the exceptions were not listed in any particular order and that indulging in all four at the same time should be avoided.

The Rleaning nf Life

In our collective approach to health promotion,” writes health educator Larry Chapman, “we generally feel somewhat embarrassed to mention things like love, joy, peace, sense of purpose, connectedness to others . . . Should we not strive to broaden our concept of health promotion to include these kinds of issues? Are we only interested in prolonging life and unclogging arteries? I hope not.”

There are many ways to clarify meaning in our lives. One way is to reach out to help others; another is to develop a strong sense of community.

In a recent study, an altruistic indi-


■ Dorothy McCarron, a 65-year-old artist, founded the Nova Scotia Seniors Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The gallery exhibits and sells paintings by local artists aged 50plus.

■ Dorothy Rivers is the 71-year-old past president of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, a legal aid clinic in Toronto, Ontario. The Centre produced a manual on elder abuse and co-organized the first national conference on elder abuse.

■ Gordon Hirabayashi, 74, is an advocate with the Japanese Canadian Redress Committee on the National Association of Japanese Canadians and the vice-president

vidual is twice as likely to be happy; a selfish individual is 10 times more likely to be unhappy. According to doctors Ornstein and Sobel, “it appears that the brain cannot do its job of protecting the body without contact with other people. It draws vital nourishment from our friends, lovers, relatives, lodge brothers and sisters, even our co-workers and members of our weekly bowling team.” Until recent years, neighborhoods filled our need for a sense of community. But in recent years, our sense of community has floundered. The Canadian Healthy Communities Network, which is designed to strengthen community action on local health issues, is changing that. Over 200 communities in Canada have joined the network by using local government to declare themselves “healthy communities” and to address local problems that are defined within the community itself. Joy, peace, connectedness to others, altruism and a sense of community - all of these are essential if we are to achieve health for all. ■

Healthy Canada: Countdown to the Year 2000 was

produced by Health and Welfare Canada as part of the Healthy Canada/Canada en santé strategy. Healthy Canada/Canada en santé urges Canadians to be actively involved in their health, the health of their families and communities and their health care system. It recognizes that supportive environments, commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act and partnerships among governments, the private sector and health organizations are necessary to make this possible.

of the Association of Professors Emeriti at the University of Alberta.

■ Arthur Privett, 77, is chair of the Yukon Line of the Life Association, a non-profit organization that provides emergency communications for isolated or vulnerable seniors.

Marjorie Willson, 69, is president of the Saskatchewan Seniors Fitness Association, vice chairperson of the National Walking Campaign and an active member of the Canadian Seniors Games Association. Through volunteer work and leadership, Marjorie successfully promotes physical activity and sports to Canadians over age 55.