The pandemic has impacted mothers more than many others. A new study hopes to see if group activity can help.
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Good Morning!
One of the things I love about being a journalist is that I get to learn every day. I get to ask questions of interesting people. I get to share the things I’ve discovered with others, like today’s story on fitness for moms. For me, learning is a joy—but it's not always easy. Sometimes, learning means you have to confront uncomfortable truths about your community and yourself. Many of us non-Indigenous folks are doing this kind of learning now. It’s good that we are. It may be hard, but our future will be better for it. —Grace Kennedy, reporter
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Moms have gathered for outdoor fitness lessons as part of a study to see if group activity can help with mental health. 📸  Iris Lesser
Moms helping moms, through fitness

Moms are not okay.

That was the title of a University of Alberta study, which found that the number of new mothers experiencing depression and anxiety more than doubled since before the pandemic. Physical activity helped reduce both anxiety and depression, the study found, but COVID also left women less active than they had been before.

Iris Lesser, a kinesiology professor at the University of the Fraser Valley and mom herself, read the study. She wondered if group fitness could help. She had done similar studies during the pandemic: including one suggesting pandemic restrictions affected women’s physical activity more than men’s. Starting a study to explore mental health in new moms, months after the birth of her second daughter, just made sense.

"It was something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, looking at postpartum mental health and physical activity," Lesser said. "I struggled so much [with anxiety] with my first daughter, and really felt like there was no support for the mother. It was all about the baby."

Lesser’s study took the form of a twice-weekly outdoor fitness group led by fellow UFV researcher Gillian Hatfield in Chilliwack during the spring. Babies were, of course, welcomed so long as they don’t crawl away, but the focus was on getting moms active and connecting with other adults. The goal was to answer some fundamental questions: do women who exercise together feel connected? And will that help them have better mental health in the long run?

A total of 21 women participated in the study. It’s a large group—they had been divided into 2 classes to help with social distancing—and the high turnout is likely because many of the groups new moms would ordinarily attend were cancelled.

The outdoor fitness part of the study is now over, but half of the women will be participating in interviews 6 months after the program. The interviews will help Lesser monitor their well-being after the end of classes and learn whether they’ve been able to keep up their activity levels. There won’t be any published results from her study until those interviews are complete, but anecdotally it’s already been a success for at least 1 mom.

"I never saw myself as a group fitness person, I’m very individual in my exercise. [At first] it was like, ‘Well, I’ll show up just to be a good sport,’" Lesser said about the classes, which she participated in with her infant daughter Kaia. "But I do find the days that I’m really struggling, when I haven’t slept at all and I’m feeling out of it, I do feel immensely better after going.

"It just resets you. It gets you thinking, ‘I’m not the only one feeling this way. I’m not the only one who didn’t sleep last night.’ It just really gives you a better start to your day."

— By Grace Kennedy

The Floor Is Yours: What have you done to support your mental health during the pandemic?
Need to Know
⛺ A family was forced out of their campsite by threats and pellet gun shots at Chehalis Lake, the second such incident reported during the May long weekend [News 1130]

🚨 4 customers tackled an armed robber during a bank hold up in Abbotsford  [Abbotsford News]

🥁 Several hundred people gathered in Abbotsford to honour and remember the 215 students found dead at Kamloops Indian Residential School [Abbotsford News]

🐣 A Chilliwack family is hoping a petition will allow them to keep their 10 pet quail in their backyard [Chilliwack Progress]

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Chilliwack's city hall will be expanding with a new 3-floor addition. 📸  City of Chilliwack
The Agenda
The City of Chilliwack will be expanding its municipal hall. More staff and civic resources are needed in Chilliwack because of "continued economic growth," according to a city staff report, and the new 3-floor addition will see an additional 20,000 sq. ft. added to the city’s civic space. Council awarded the $6.6 million expansion project to Wales and McLellan Construction during its meeting on Tuesday. The expansion will take over much of the existing parking lot, and the city has already purchased property on Southlands Drive to turn into additional parking. Construction for the Southlands Drive parking is expected to be complete this August.

Leaders in the Upper Fraser Valley are calling on the federal government to develop a National Residential School Student Death Register. The Lets’emot Community to Community Forum released a statement Tuesday calling for the federal government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Specifically, the group says Canada needs to provide funding for a student death register, as well as memorial ceremonies and markers. It also says residential school cemeteries need to be commemorated and protected, with the Indigenous communities most affected leading those strategies. The Lets’emot Community to Community Forum includes leaders from the Cheam First Nation, Stó:lō Tribal Council, Sts’ailes First Nation, Seabird Island, Sq’éwlets First Nation, District of Kent, and Harrison Hot Springs.
COVID latest
Neighbourhood-level data is telling an encouraging story across the Fraser Valley this week. Weekly rates of COVID-19 are down across the Fraser Valley, with the highest being in Central Abbotsford (117/100,000), West Abbotsford (77/100,000), and Aldergrove (70/100,000). This is significantly down from the week before, when the highest weekly rate was 168/100,000 (West Abbotsford). Test positivity rates are down as well, with everywhere other than West Abbotsford below 10%. In Langley, everywhere other than Aldergrove is below a 5% positivity rate. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 194 / 254 average (down 22% from last week)
  • 246 hospitalizations (down 17% from last week)
  • 4 new deaths / 1,707 total

  • Scientists say uneven vaccine distribution world-wide could put progress against the pandemic ‘back to square one’ [CBC]
  • BC is suing a pandemic party host, saying the money found in his suite should be forfeited as the proceeds of crime [Vancouver Sun]

Around Town
🏆 The Current has passed an exciting subscriber milestone! Friday morning, editor Tyler Olsen will take your questions via Facebook Live. Watch for details in tomorrow's newsletter.

🧾 The Agassiz Community Garage Sale is taking place on June 5. Maps showing the 17 sale locations will be handed out at Schep Park on the day.

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