The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) encourage youth to be the best athletes they can be. They have other impacts, including a positive influence on participants’ lifestyle choices.
Given that many First Nations cultures from across North America are based on founding principles that encourage balance, it is not surprising that when Indigenous Nations from all four directions come together at the NAIG, the same balance can be seen in the athletes. The extensive training that the athletes must go through for months and sometimes years prior to competing in the NAIG in fact encourages them to maintain balance in their everyday activities.
A study by Praxis Research/Strategy on the social impact of the 2014 Regina NAIG found participants are more likely to make healthier lifestyle choices than their non-participating peers.
Most NAIG participants reported engaging in at least 20 minutes of physical activity every day, leading to overall healthier lifestyles. While the NAIG athletes generally focus on a specific sport or activity, most also play a wide variety of sports in their hometown or community. They explain that keeping busy and staying involved in sports encourages them to maintain overall healthier habits.
When comparing participants to non-participants, the sports-participating youth were found to be more likely to attend school than their non-participant peers. Although some do not play sports but lead healthy lives, some of the young people who do not engage in sports are more likely to have poor school attendance, make poorer food choices and engage in self-destructive behaviours, including smoking, drinking or drug use.
The study also found that the NAIG have a positive influence on participants’ nutritional choices, although it is important to keep in mind that finances and accessibility also affect the ability to eat healthier food.
Overall, NAIG participants are thus much more active and engage in much healthier practices and habits than non-participants. Many youth reported making healthier choices as a result of their involvement with the NAIG, and 97% even indicated they intended to maintain their healthy eating habits after the NAIG.
Not only are the NAIG a great opportunity for cultural sharing and athletic competition, it is also a great way for young people to embark on a journey of healthy living!