Saskatoon woman takes a million steps for mental health

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WATCH: With the pandemic pushing us to isolate ourselves, many have felt their mental health deteriorate. So going outside and taking it all in can be beneficial, especially if it’s raising money for mental health or for the Meewasin Valley Authority. Emily-May Simmonds has the story. – Feb 18, 2022

With the pandemic pushing us to isolate ourselves, many have felt their mental health deteriorate.

Lack of social interaction, staying inside, and minimal exercise are all contributing factors in making people feel low.

One Saskatoon woman decided to get out and take it one step at a time and she’s managed to fit in a lot of steps. She’s benefiting not only herself, but others as well.

A million steps in the span of a year sounds impossible, but Frances Sreedhar, a longtime Saskatoon resident, is doing just that.

Read more: Saskatchewan mayors voice concerns with mental health and addictions support

“I’ve lived in Saskatoon my entire life, explored the trails even before they were trails when I was a little kid, from about 1970s on and I was always out on the trails,” said Frances Sreedhar, Saskatoon resident.

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“When I’ve lived on different areas of the city, I’ve always driven down to the trails.”

Sreedhar started this adventure in March of 2021.

Her goal is to hit one million steps by March 31, 2022, and she’s confident she will.

Throughout the pandemic, she realized the importance of nature and the impact it has on your mental health.

“I have just found this really helps with stress reduction and with my own mental well-being and it’s something I can do physically everyday that helps me to feel like I’m accomplishing something and I have a bit of a goal and a purpose,” said Sreedhar.

Through the million steps challenge she hopes to raise 1 cent per step, equaling a goal of $10,000.

All the money will go between the Meewasin Valley Authority and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Read more: Meewasin consultations underway in pursuit of national urban park creation for Saskatoon

The association says they’ve seen an increase in people reaching out for support.

“It allows us to think about things and let things go, it also connects us with nature and connects us with people who are doing the same thing,” said Faith Bodnar, CMHA Saskatoon executive director.

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“I think people have been lonely and isolated during the pandemic, and so it’s an opportunity just to, even if you don’t have a long conversation or that exchange with someone, there’s that recognition that you’re out and you belong there.”

The Meewasin Valley has over 100 kilometres of trails. This gives people lots of new spaces to check out.

Since the pandemic started, Andrea Lafond has seen an increase in trail visitors

“Meewasin has 105 km of trail for folks to walk, ride, and roll. During the pandemic, we’ve seen visits rise to 2.24 million,” said Andrea Lafond, Meewasin Valley Authority CEO.

“That’s our 2021 stats over 2019, which was at 1.65 (million), so our community is getting out and using that necessary trail infrastructure to support their mental and physical health.”

Regardless of the weather, Sreedhar says nothing is going to stop her from reaching her goal.

“At the end I always feel better, even when I’m freezing,” said Sreedhar

The CMHA Wellness Hub offers support for those struggling.

To donate, or get involved, visit the Meewasin website, and/or the CMHA Saskatoon website.

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