Exercise program helping Islanders with chronic illness

Debbie Joy and Katie Beck

Back in 2022, Debbie Joy was constantly battling with hip and knee pain.

She struggled with mobility and flexibility issues on a regular basis. 

But thanks to a free online program called Exercise for Health, the 67-year-old is seeing positive changes that have improved her life significantly. The program is a partnership between the Department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture, Recreation PEI and Beck Exercise Physiology.

“The program has been amazing,” she said. “It really has been a life changer.”

Debbie says before she started Exercise for Health, the pain continued to get worse as time went on and she was using a cane to get around. 

“I really didn’t want to be sitting in a wheelchair down the road,” she said. 

But now that she’s taking part in the exercise program, her mobility and flexibility have improved significantly.

“Within the third week I noticed my flexibility was changing a lot,” she said. “Then around the fourth or fifth week, my knees weren’t hurting as much. It’s been so positive for me.”

The idea for the program came about in 2020 during the pandemic when people were in lock down. 

“We recognized there were a number of individuals who were suffering from various chronic health conditions and were probably limited to where they could go to get some level of service and programming,” said John Morrison, director of Sport and Recreation for the Department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture.   

Katie Beck, of Beck Exercise Physiology approached government to offer the six-week online program provincially for people to take part from the comfort of their home.  

It’s designed for Islanders living with chronic health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, COPD, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular disease, and knee and hip osteoarthritis.

Participants go through a screening process to make sure they are physically able to take part. 

“This program is the first of its kind in PEI,” Beck said. 

“It grows people’s confidence in their ability to engage in healthy movement and to be a part of a collaborative team.  Participants make decisions for themselves that best suits their own preferences, and improve their physical literacy, while also moving more.”

The user-friendly model makes it very appealing, Beck said.   

“There has been lots of interest from people tip-to-tip across PEI. We have had over 400 participants from 80 communities and the number continues to grow.” 

Many have told her they have seen life-changing results.

“People say that they didn’t believe they were capable of so much change in a relatively short amount of time. They report feeling empowered in their own ability to make meaningful changes in their health. A lot of the fear and uncertainty is removed, and they begin to enjoy and look forward to exercising, which is just so wonderful.”

Beck hopes the Exercise for Health program allows potential participants to realize it’s never too late to add regular fitness to your lifestyle.

“Everyone has a right to know how to move their bodies in ways that work for them,” she said. 

“We need to make the exercise fit the person, and not the other way around. When people realize that they can improve their health by exercising in a way that suits their individual needs and preferences, we are improving their physical literacy and that is so crucial for a healthy life.” 

For more information and to find out how to register for the program visit: Exercise for Health.

General Inquiries

Department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture
Shaw Building
95-105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
North 3rd Floor

Telephone: 902-368-5956