Mens Sana in Corpore Sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body. It’s the motto of numerous athletic clubs and educational institutions around the world. It’s the theory that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being. As a runner and a physician I know that it is true and, intuitively, I believe, so do most of you. But let’s be guided by the science.
I was born in Victoria, grew up in Esquimalt and was introduced to athletics and academic excellence at Esquimalt Junior and Senior High Schools. However, I would not have become the runner that I became nor the medical doctor that I am, had it not been for that old cinder track at Vic High upon which I competed, and more importantly upon which I trained. Sixty years ago, it was the only track in town. Now there are trustees of School District 61 who seem unaware of the long-term impact of trading away the “revitalization” of the Vic High track for a mere eight-metre increase in the “footprint” of the proposed Caledonia housing project adjacent to the school. That very small loss of land will destroy the track, its legacy and all of its future potential.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that affordable housing is essential to the health and social well-being of our community, but it should not require the destruction of something of equal or perhaps, as I hope to convince you, of much greater value. Housing projects can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but there is only one shape and size for a standard 400-metre eight-lane running track.
But this is about much more than helping Vic High athletes. It is also about the overwhelming evidence that regular physical activity reduces the risk of numerous diseases. Physical activity helps to relieve stress. It is used to treat anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHA), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism and even schizophrenia. The bottom line is that people who engage in regular physical activity are healthier, happier and live longer.
There is enormous evidence that physically active youth are not only physically fitter but have better academic performance, improved school attendance, less disruptive classroom behaviour and greater self esteem. They are less likely to smoke, drink, use drugs or get in trouble with the law. They are twice as likely to remain physically active into adulthood and to reap all the health benefits of an active life.
So I urge the trustees of School District 61, the Capital Region Housing Corporation and the City of Victoria to please reconsider. Please ask the architects and developers of the project to tweak the plans. Preserve and revitalize the track, not just for the benefits of physical activity and sport on the physical development of our children but also for their long-term intellectual, psychological, emotional, social and even moral development.