A Healthier KPYOU

Thrive Week tells us how to stay physically and mentally healthy on campus

by Kyle Prince & Monica Mah

Kat Nekuryashchikh / The Runner

No matter the campus, all Kwantlen Polytechnic University students face similar problems. But whether you’re looking for good place to eat or a relaxing way to de-stress after exams, there are resources available for the beleaguered eagle, and Thrive Week provided a way to get to know them better.

According to Jennifer MacArthur, KPU’s manager of student services, Thrive Week has been happening for the past six years at just nine universities across Canada. It began right here in B.C., though, when UBC kicked off the first Thrive week in 2009. And this year they challenged KPU to host our own.

“Initially it was awareness of mental health, [which] is still the emphasis. But I think that the approach to mental health, or supporting good mental health, is a holistic approach,” says MacArthur. Since its inception, the focus of Thrive Week has grown to include general fitness and well-being. As MacArthur explains, the main goal of week is to “highlight the existing services and activities on campus to support health and wellness, and to host a couple feature events,” that also contribute to mental and physical well-being.

To help support mental health on campus, there were mindfulness sessions, prayer rooms, and counselling services available for students. For people interested in fitness there was a run—or walk— session called “fit, fun, fast” at lunch hour. To balance the activities, there were boards offered on each campus for students and staff to write about what they’re grateful for and playing cards so that they could enjoy each other’s company.

As part of the challenge, UBC dared Kwantlen to host a bigger yoga event than their own, which also provided the thrill of competition. “Personally, I was excited for the yoga class,” says MacArthur. “It was cool to know we’re both pursuing a health-minded and social aspect.”

Even though Thrive Week is over, there’s no excuse to simply lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. There are still plenty of ways to remain active and relatively stress-free at Kwantlen, the first of which is something that gets delivered straight to your Kwantlen inbox.

Student Health 101

“Student Health 101 is focused on all around health and wellness in the broader sense, which means we look at everything from programming around campus to events and articles within the magazine,” says Nick Bransford, KPU’s student services events and communications coordinator. “It’s not just about health in the medical or physical sense.”

In fulfillment of its mandate, Student Health 101 is loaded with tips for fitness, healthy recipes, how to cope with stress, and even study habits. Some specific pieces featured in Student Health 101 included “Things that students wished they had figured out sooner,” and “How to workout at home.” Bransford says his favorite piece was the “First Generation” article, a piece about students who are new to Canada finding their way through post-secondary education.

“I felt like it provided a really nice, relatable piece, and I’m someone who’s been in Canada my entire life,” he says.

Peer Support Group

Then there’s the Peer Support Group, which coordinators Jennifer Lingbaoan and Alisha Chauhan say provides “one-on-one support for students,” and allows them to talk with a volunteer about anything that might be going on in their lives. And since all the volunteers are also students, they hope anyone who visits will find it easier to open up, knowing the volunteers have probably gone through many similar issues.

Beyond the support sessions, the Peer Support Group also hosts mental health awareness events, such as the Sexpo just last month. Beginning soon they will provide peer-led workshops, also run entirely by student volunteers. One such workshop will be about test taking, as final exam time is fast approaching and many of the volunteers felt passionate about wanting to help their fellow students shed the stress of impending exams.

The Peer Support Group was heavily involved with Thrive Week, hosting the “Munch a Bunch” table, which promoted healthy snacking. The table got snacks together for students so that they could drop by and pick up something healthy on the way to their next class.

Active KSA

Of course, you can’t be healthy without staying active, which is why Active KSA, a recreational program offered through the student association, is there for students.

“Our basic programs are outdoors—hiking, water sports, and other sports—to provide students with an outlet to be active,” says Active KSA leader Victor Cortez. The events held by the Active KSA are typically those outside of what most people would even consider doing or putting together by themselves, which is why they are all so group-oriented.

Active KSA hosts about one event per week, all of which are free for Kwantlen students. The scavenger hunt, Cortez’ favorite event, was held downtown around the Vancouver Waterfront area, and had contestants finding landmarks, people, or sculptures “that are very Vancouver,” which allowed students to explore their hometown.

Currently their plans are to go dragon boating, and fortunately Cortez is intent on finding a good coach so that having experience isn’t a requirement for the event. “A lot of the misconception about dragon boating is strength,” says Cortez, “[that] if you don’t have the technique, your back’s going to break the second you start paddling.” But that’s not the case. If you’re letting your inexperience keep you from dragon boating, then never fear. There will be plenty of other inexperienced people—literally and figuratively—in the same boat as you.

KPU Rec

If you don’t feel like going too far from home, but still want to stay active, KPU Rec is the place for you. According to Emily Taylor, someone involved with the program, KPU Rec provides “health and fitness opportunities through free fitness classes,” and a host of other programs like intramural tournaments in a variety of different sports, most of which can last for weeks.

KPU Rec is currently trying to expand beyond being a purely physical resource for students. They’re aiming to include mental, spiritual, emotional, and social support as well, since they’re “trying to build all of those parts of an individual, and build them all together at KPU,” according to Taylor. Right now, though, they’re focusing on walking and running groups like the Sun Run clinics. One very health-conscious event that happens to be Taylor’s favourite event is the Movember Dodgeball tournament.

“It’s always lots of fun and always seems to draw a lot of people,” she says. As a bonus it’s also a charity event, with the proceeds going towards the Movember Foundation for men’s health.

Grassroots

All this running around can work up a student’s appetite. That’s when the discerning Kwantlenite (Kwantlonian?) makes their way to the Grassroots café, KPU’s student-support eatery. Every day offers a different healthy breakfast, and Adam Rhode, the Grassroot’s manager, makes sure that every morning meal comes with a vegetarian option.

Salads, Paninis, organic turkey meat, organic vegetables—the Grassroots always tries to stay healthy, local, and ahead of the curve. Everything on the menu is made to order, meaning that the items can be changed on the fly, and therefore completely customizable. Don’t like sour cream? It’s gone. Don’t want mustard? Mustard is dead to you.

Nothing there is ever deep fried, so people are able to pick out their favorites and know that they’re staying healthy. Sure, some of the items might lean more towards the “treats” side of things,  but hey, splurging on fries every once in a while won’t kill you.

So many resources, so little time. The semester might almost be over, but don’t let that stop you—there are plenty of groups and events to get involved with, getting healthy isn’t a short term goal. The people and groups mentioned here are just a good way to get started on your journey to fitness and well-being. Use them, talk to them, eat them responsibly, and find out what they’ve got coming up next. Or better yet, if you’ve got your own ideas, don’t be afraid to approach any of these groups and get them to help you help others.

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