Healthy Living? ActNow

By Vernice Shostal

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Every move is a good move at the Henderson Recreation Centre’s Oak Bay ActNow BC Seniors’ Park. Named after former Alderman and Reeve William Henderson, an architect and member of the syndicate that was instrumental in incorporating Oak Bay, the park includes a nine-hole par-three golf course surrounded by a low impact chip trail. The latest addition, two or three pieces of outdoor fitness equipment at each of the six stations positioned on the trail, offers a total fitness opportunity for the wellness-minded individual.

Established because of a 2009 provincial government Healthy Living and sport initiative to help keep seniors active and engaged in the community, the park includes a free outdoor gym that can be used any time.

“[People] don’t have to worry about the centre hours,” says fitness supervisor, Kelly Joya. “In the summer, people may be out here at 5:30. On the weekends, there are no opening and closing hours. It’s just dawn ‘til dusk.”

The specialized outdoor recreational equipment, designed by the same company that makes children’s playground equipment, aims to improve mobility, co-ordination, balance, flexibility, strength and maintain agility in adults 55 years and over, but is suitable for all ages.

“While some pieces focus on cardiovascular health, the majority focus on increasing range of motion and building up strength, so when we add walking along the trail, which is a really good way to maintain your health, this provides seniors with a complete workout,” says Kelly.

A helpful program for seniors is the orientation offered through the fitness department, which provides the option of coming out to learn how to use the equipment. It brings optimum fitness activities to an outdoor environment. For best results, the centre suggests the program should be completed at least twice a week, adding sessions of up to five times a week with improvement.

Bob Martin, who has gone from selling building supplies to building healthy bodies, is a personal trainer and certified functional assessor at Henderson. He uses the trail and outdoor equipment three or four times a week. Using a combination of all the fitness equipment, which includes leg pieces and upper body workouts, necessarily equalizes the body muscles, says Bob, who takes advantage of the equipment before his workday begins.

Raised in Regina, Bob moved to Vancouver in the early ‘50s and to Victoria in 1971. He has spent a lifetime in sports and working in the community with the Track and Field Flying “Y” in Victoria from 1979 to 1988, and as a fitness instructor at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1989/90.

Restaurant owners John and Theodora Biros, who live nearby, use the chip trail and outdoor fitness equipment twice a week. “We walk every day,” says John. “The workout takes us about 20 minutes.” His favourite workout is the Tai Chi Wheel, which makes his body feel like it’s floating. “It feels like you lift 100 pounds from your body.”

The Biros were excited when the facility opened and were among the first people to try it. They haven’t stopped since. “It’s outdoors and you don’t have to be locked in the gym with a lot of people and lots of noise,” says John. “Here, you can see the birds flying. It’s open all the time. It’s perfect.”

Originally from Greece, the Biros moved to Toronto in the ‘60s, where they lived for 20 years before Theodora went on vacation to Victoria with her sister and brother-in-law. Theodora fell in love with the Island and went home to tell her husband, “That’s it! That’s the place we’re going to live.”

Bounded by the chip trail and the exercise equipment, the nine-hole, par-three golf course, offers beautiful scenery and a short round; the longest hole is 90 yards. “Golfers have played about 25,000 rounds to the end of August this year,” says Community Recreation Co-ordinator, Ronanne McConnachie. “A senior’s game is $6.25 - less when they buy a pack. We have one gentleman here, he’s 95,” says Ronanne. “He golfs at least twice a week, if not three times. There’s also a coffee shop where [golfers] can visit and rehash the game.”

Josie Willock has been golfing for practice at Henderson since she retired from the Greater Victoria School Board about 12 years ago. “I usually come here for my short game - putting and pitching,” she says. “And I just think it’s beautiful. I find it relaxing. The scenery is out of this world.” Josie golfs at Henderson nearly every Friday. “That’s Ladies’ Day,” she says.

Semi-retired musician and entertainer Cecil Shaw plays golf at the Henderson twice a week with friends. He moved to the Oak Bay area from Prince George in 1986 and has no regrets. “I hate leaving this place,” he says. “I haven’t been off the Island for 10 years. It seems that every year, it gets better and better. I love this course. You don’t even know you’re in the middle of the city.”

Before the development, the area known as the Hudson’s Bay Company woods, part of the vast HBC Vancouver Island land holding, was home to an abundance of wildlife like deer, pheasant and grouse and was a popular area for hunters in the late 18th to early 20th centuries. The vicinity was mainly virgin fir forest and horse trails. Horseback riders could rent a horse from Carley’s Stables next to the land holding and ride into the woods and down to the beach.

According to archivist Jean Sparks, the current recreation area, 22 acres of land purchased from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1962 for the sum of $150,000, came in response to a new housing development in Upper Henderson.

“Henderson subdivision started in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s,” says Jean. “Then it was essential that there was some recreation across the street.”

The golf course was developed in the early ‘70s, followed by the chip trail.

The Henderson Pavilion opened on July 20, 1972 and the outdoor exercise equipment along the chip trail, added in the spring of 2009, is the newest addition.

As a fitness gathering place, the Oak Bay ActNow Seniors’ Park at the Henderson Recreation Centre offers opportunities for fitness, fun and social interaction; a critical healthy living component for everyone.





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