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The Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health held its annual sport summit in Baraboo this month, to educate community members about various types of physical activity.

The event took place on March 8, a day before March Madness at the House of Wellness.

“This is the third year in a row that they’ve done this summit,” said Amy DeLong, a primary-care physician at the facility. “And this is the best-attended it’s ever been.”

The summit featured more than 20 breakout sessions led by experienced industry professionals. Topics included personal training, cardio fitness, water aerobics, Zumba, women’s self-defense, pregnancy health, and several others.

Participants played an active role in almost all of the classes.

Fitness supervisor Lance Tallmadge said he received positive feedback from a number of people who took part in the day’s activities.
“One person told me that the personal-training session was the best session that they attended,” Tallmadge said. “We took people through weightlifting – using proper technique, proper form – and we really broke it down for people. They felt that was very informative.”

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, former MMA fighter Nikki Lowe gave a keynote speech that addressed some of the health problems plaguing Indian Country.

She shared a personal story about how she was able to overcome alcohol and substance abuse.

“I started getting high when I was 12 years old,” Lowe said. “And after my brother passed away, I fell into a pattern of drinking.”
Lowe said that before she considered a career in mixed martial arts, she would use drugs and alcohol to numb her pain. Once she became more involved in fighting, however, she learned that exercise was a more effective treatment for her depression than anything she put into her body.

“It’s a healthy outlet for me to deal with my anger and grief,” Lowe said. “And that’s what a lot of people need to overcome things in a positive way.”

The fighter encouraged others to find an outlet of their own, rather than heading down a dark path.

“Don’t turn to things like (drugs and alcohol),” Lowe said, “because that’s not who we are. We’re a pureblood people.”

The speech ended with a Q and A in which audience members were encouraged to ask the athlete questions. One of the attendees asked if she planned to continue fighting, even though she had announced her retirement.

Lowe said she would always be fighting – fighting for sobriety among her native people.

Afternoon classes focused on diabetes prevention and the health benefits of physical activity, among other things. Leading the latter session was on-site care physician Amy DeLong.

“Physical activity helps us feel better,” DeLong said. “When we exercise or do any form of physical activity, it breaks us from that cycle of negative thoughts that feeds our depression and anxiety.”

An avid runner herself, the doctor promoted cardiovascular exercise as a positive way to relieve stress. She said that the benefits from such activities can be felt in a matter of minutes.

“You don’t need to run 10 miles achieve a runner’s high,” DeLong said. “That runner’s high occurs in the first five minutes, and it is a cannabis-like chemical that enhances our sense of wellbeing. So you can just throw your pot away, even though it may become legal one day.”

She then explained the physiological process that takes place in the human body during exercise.

“It is similar to the body’s reaction to stress,” DeLong said. “Blood is being directed into our muscles, and profuses our brains more than usual. The reason for that is all the things going on in our brain, to get our bodies to respond the way they do.”

Following the conclusion of DeLong’s presentation, speakers took part in a panel discussion about the secrets to living a healthy lifestyle.

Many of them expressed interest in returning for next year’s event, which will take place in March 2019.

Written by Tim Wohlers

Tim Wohlers is a reporter for Hocak Worak, the newspaper of the Ho Chunk Nation.

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