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Fitness program being brought to northern communities

Wednesday September 3, 2014
Jasmine Kabatay/Wawatay News

Fitness program being brought to northern communities

More First Nations will experience the opportunity to be more fit and healthy thanks to a fitness program being brought up north.

Theresa Ducharme, who is Metis, founded Lemon Cree in Montreal back in 2010 and originally planned for it to be a part-time business, but it escalated into something more.

“There’s a real demand for our service,” said Ducharme. “With our communities there’s a really high rate of diabetes, obesity, and depression. We’ve been able to help a lot of people over the years.”

After a few proposals were planned to bring her program to the James Bay Cree communities in Quebec, she was hired for all 10 communities instead of the few she assumed she would get.

Ducharme’s program teaches a variety of different things such as how to exercise, how to shop for healthy food and also how to cook healthy food. She describes the program as “a mixture of many things.”

Ducharme says the program starts with everyone being measured on the first day and then continuing on to exercising two hours day, as well as healthy cooking classes with Swedish chef Simon van der Maaten, who also holds walk-abouts to teach people how to read labels properly.
On the last day, she measures everyone again to see how many inches were lost.

Since they’ve been in Webequie, which is 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, the group has lost a total of 306 inches.

Ducharme says this is proof of what healthy eating and exercise can do.

“There was this one lady that had her blood work done and it was 30, which was extremely high. She worked out with us for five days straight and she got her blood work done again, and it went from 30 to five. This proves right there what exercise can do,” said Ducharme.

Upon being physically in the communities, Ducharme has other ways to help people with exercise. She has a newsletter for the communities and has even made workout videos, which people can buy and be active in their own home.

Ducharme even has a course set up so people can get certified in fitness and continue the workouts and healthy eating in the communities when she’s not there.

“I didn’t want to just come in the community and leave,” said Ducharme. “So we formed a certification to get people certified.”

“To date we have 75 people that have taken our course and are certified. A lot of them still teach in their communities.”

Ducharme says she’s overwhelmed when she sees more people pursuing an active and healthy lifestyle.

“I am overwhelmed with delight. I can’t even express. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed I get teary eyed. When I see people getting healthy, and when I see the look on their face when they dropped eight inches, or 10 inches, or five inches or even two. It brings hope to all of us. It’s very inspiring,” said Ducharme.

“It feels really great to be honest. It’s just an overwhelming feeling to see these communities having this awareness, getting healthy, getting fit, and having fun while they’re doing it. The laughter in classes is music to my ears.”

Ducharme hopes more communities will get involved and hopes to see this happen across Canada.
If interested, email them at or give them a call at (416) 518-8820

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