Currently in its fourth year, Active Southern West Virginia (Active SWV) is growing in all directions. This non-profit organization provides opportunities for residents of the New River Gorge region to have access to physical activity. Those who practice an active lifestyle understand the benefits in mood, strength, avoiding sickness, and improved sleep and appetite, not to mention the long-term benefits of preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
Active SWV activities include stand up paddleboarding, mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, running, pickle ball, and group fitness programs such as indoor fitness, Refit Revolution dance exercise, Tai Chi, and yoga classes. The goal is to give people living in southern West Virginia the chance to easily participate in free, convenient, safe, beginner-level, and instruction-based physical activities.
Do you remember the first time you were part of an all-day outdoor adventure? Was it a family fishing trip or camping at a family reunion? Was it a high school field day or a church youth group trip? Was it a college club outing or your first road trip as an adult? Was someone there to lead the way or did you go explore on your own? Did that moment propel you into more outdoor adventures?
Many people grow up without access to opportunities for outdoor physical activity due to location, income, family dynamics, and work schedules. On top of that, modern technology is designed to keep us on the path of least resistance. Other stresses begin to take priority and before long, the goal of the day is just to relax. The tired and sluggish feeling is compounded by continual sluggish behavior.
It can be challenging to overcome a sluggish environment and life style. Barrier after barrier has been laid down to make a sedentary lifestyle the easy choice. It takes an awakening to influence changes in a daily habit. The moment may be witnessing the health crisis of a loved one, experiencing a health crisis first hand, or having someone constantly influencing by inviting you to healthy activities. The readiness to change has to be there for motivation to take form. This motivation can then be focused on minor changes with short-term goals to have long-term success.
Have you ever been a nagging friend or family member trying to persuade someone you care about to get up and get moving so they can feel better? It is powerful to see someone change their life through physical activity. Add in the great outdoors, and there are endless possibilities at practically no cost. This social accountability is the driving force behind Active Southern West Virginia. Volunteers throughout our programs provide a peer-to-peer approach to recruiting, leading, and supporting their participants.
“I am going into my third year as a volunteer for this nonprofit,” said Community Captain Wendy Scott. She leads stand up paddle board classes and is now a mentor to new volunteers. “I have been able to stay healthy and active by participating and volunteering with this group. I have also had the joy of witnessing first-time attendees become Community Captains and lead free activities in their communities. The group is friendly and inclusive to all individuals and everyone is welcome to get involved!”
Volunteering in this role requires compassion for the people around you, commitment to a program schedule, and desire for stay active throughout life. The leadership training and program structure is provided by Active SWV. The training is the easy part of making a difference in your life and the lives of people around you. Volunteers are now reaching people in these ways:
Community Captains are volunteer leaders providing physical activity programs in their hometowns on a weekly basis. They may choose to lead a group walk one day a week at a city park, or indoor group fitness at a local church, or group bike rides on some of the region’s many rail trails. Community Captains have brought new programs to the area such as Pickle ball, Tai Chi, and Yoga-Chi. The possibilities are endless and only require a passion to help others.
Kids Run Club Coaches are school faculty or parent volunteers helping to lead a running program for elementary age children at a school location. Coached training is provided on group management, running form, proper warm-ups, and cool-down exercises to build confidence in physical activity. You don’t have to be an athletic child to be active and healthy.
Bicycle & Pedestrian Action Committee volunteers take a focus on improving the infrastructure in their community to allow for safe venues, physical activity events, and green space improvements. This is a terrific way to tie local government operations to improving daily movement needs of the residents.
Workplace Wellness volunteers see a need and avenue in their workplace to reach physical activity goals during the work day. Remember, it’s the small daily changes that will influence a habit and culture for the long term. Strengthening the health of the workforce is key to improving the economy for the people of southern West Virginia.
So, what’s your next step in the active direction?
The power and influence of leading others in physical activity is a great way to hold yourself accountable while improving quality of life for someone else. Active SWV welcomes new Community Captains at any time. If you are someone who appreciates the great outdoors, I personally invite you to find an opportunity to ask someone new to that experience—I bet you can think of someone right now.
Find an Active SWV program or event to try something new. Programs are designed for residents of southern West Virginia. “Stand up paddle boarding at Cunard with Wendy, Sally and crew was great,” said Celi Van Dyke from Oak Hill. “I highly recommend getting involved with this group!”
Be part of the 2018 Annual Fund to both give and receive benefits. Visit https://activeswv.org/donate.
Participate & Contribute
Everyone is welcome to join us for the Active SWV Bridge Day 5k on October 20th. Registration fees go directly to community programs. Visit www.activeswv.org or call (304) 254-8488 for more information.
Melanie Seiler is the founder and executive director of Active SWV. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org