There is no better treatment for diseases like diabetes and heart disease than prevention but when it comes to modern health care, it seems like it’s more about the treatment than prevention.
That’s what Dean Hill, 25, a personal trainer and youngest member of elected council says.
And it’s something he wants to encourage more of during his tenure on council.
“The health system so focused on treating everything,” says Hill. “We’re not thinking what can we do to stop it from happening.”
Hill is deeply knowledgeable about all aspects of health and fitness, whether it be nutrition or strength training, and he wants to see the community get healthier for their own sake.
With diabetes and obesity a rampant epidemic among First Nations people, Hill wants to help people look at the root causes of weight and health related issues and as a personal trainer, he has the knowledge to help people learn for themselves how to get in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
He may be young but he was just a kid when he started learning about health and fitness.
Like many First Nations youth, he was overweight and bullied for it, but he loved his sports and learned everything he could about health and fitness to be a better football player.
“I’ve always been a bigger kid when I was younger. I know it happens a lot. We’re talking about the Rez here. It didn’t really bother me too much. I got into shape because I wanted to play sports. At the time it was football. I wanted to play it. I remember it being so difficult and so hard to do.”
He played on the defensive lines for most of his youth and after various injuries and eons spent on the Internet at the high school library (because he didn’t have Internet at home, like so many kids on the reserve) he learned a lot about strength training, injury prevention and nutrition.
There are a lot of factors that prevent people from reaching a healthy weight, he notes.
On Six Nations, there’s a lack of transportation to and from health clubs, as well as financial barriers to getting into sports and gyms.
Hill is big on strength training, saying it provides the basis for a fast resting metabolism, thereby helping to control weight gain.
Muscles burn calories, so even at rest, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, he notes.
There’s also the psychology of health and fitness, says Hill.
People want immediate results and he understands it’s difficult to sustain months or years of a new lifestyle without seeing drastic changes.
But he said people need to be okay with the “delayed gratification” that a new fitness journey brings.
“We have to be patient. We’re not going to see results in a week, a month, or three months. You have to be consistent. That takes a lot of mental willpower.”
Hill says martial arts classes taught him the discipline and patience he needed to learn to wait for the results and hard work to pay off.
“Traditional sports did’t teach me that discipline. Martial arts is the way to get discipline. Trust in process. You have to give it time. Martial arts was good because of the mental and emotional aspect.”
There are different aspects of fitness, too, which Hill can provide education on: endurance, strength, and flexibility being just a few.
One of the biggest areas of focus for Hill was learning how to strengthen different parts of his body to prevent injury, especially as a football player.
Hill has some equipment at home and although he does train clients there, his dream is to open a large gym on Six Nations that is accessible to everyone.
As a councillor he wants more resources invested in helping the community get healthier.
“The health system so focused on treating everything. We’re not thinking what can we do to stop it from happening. We invest almost no resources…on prevention.”
In time, the goal is to ensure people, “become accountable and you become disciplined with yourself. You don’t take the shortcuts when it comes to fitness.”