KEMPTVILLE, ONT. -- June marks the start of the ParticipAction Community Better Challenge, with an eastern Ontario community ready to defend its 2021 title, kick-starting the 2022 campaign on Saturday.

The first annual Healthy Living Expo kicked off in Kemptville, Ont., showcasing the many ways people can get active in their community.

From pole dancing, to disc golf, there was even a medieval martial arts display set up in Riverside Park. 

"Whatever it is that makes you happy and gets you moving, do it, don't hold back," said Rebecca Cronk of Get Cronked Fitness Studio.

"We help Kemptville get a little more active so this challenge has been great," she said. "Kemptville has so many opportunities to get fit and to stay healthy in our town so ParticipAction has really highlighted that and winning it last year was just kind of a true picture of the various opportunities that we have."

The ParticipAction Community Better Challenge began on June 1, with North Grenville defending last year's title of Canada's Most Active Community.

"We're number 1 and we're going to keep at it," said North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford, trying her skills on a rowing machine. 

The $100,000 prize they received for winning was used to upgrade four parks in the area.

North Grenville

New play structures will be built at Crozier Park in Oxford Mills and at Oxford Station Park, Bishops Mills Park will receive a new rink house, and the basketball court will be updated behind the Burritt’s Rapids Community Centre.

Peckford says residents are keen to hold on to their first place title.

"There's a real, I think, appetite to see that anybody can become fit with the right supports and there are lots of options in North Grenville, there is no doubt," she said. 

"We really built a great foundation during the pandemic last year so to be able to capitalize on all of the ways people are normally active this year, gives us some real momentum to do it again," Peckford said. 

Cronk noticed the pandemic held some people back from getting active the past two years. 

"Now everyone is kind of coming out of their shells and realizing that you've got to get a little more active, a little healthier and that will help us fight all sorts of battles going forward whether physical or mental," she said. 

"We logged all of our clients in last year for it, so we'll definitely take part in it again this year," Cronk said. "It'll be fun, it'll be a good challenge to see if, as a community, we can beat last year and see if our 'Get Cronked' community itself can beat our numbers from last year."

Kemptville, Ont.

Just three days into this year's challenge, North Grenville already ranks number one provincially and nationally. But a challenge is expected from neighbouring communities, with Peckford already hearing from a few, asking how they won the title in 2021. 

"We're happy to share our knowledge, but we are vigorously defending our title but welcome any and all competition," she smiled.

Other activities showcased on Saturday included yoga and highland dancing.

"We compete, we do examinations in the spring and we try to perform at community events and senior homes throughout the year," said Andrea Goral from the Andrea Goral School of Highland Dancing.

"(You) wear kilts, we dance to the bagpipes, it's mostly individual sport and you learn the movements and then you start learning the dances," Goral said, noting registrations will be open in August for the next class. 

Catherine Swail of CatherineFIT was also showing off fitness moves she teaches in her studio, like a dead hang. 

"You're working on grip strength, you're working on strength through your shoulder blades and we're just hanging. The time to beat is 1:30 right now."

Healthy Living Expo

The municipality even hosts free events that run weekly.

"We've got paddling on Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. at Curry Park, hiking on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m., various locations," said Municipality of North Grenville Recreation Coordinator Tammy Hurlbert. 

"Disc golf runs Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. at the Ferguson Forest Centre disc golf course, and then team Anytime Fitness has cycling meetups at 7 a.m. on Thursday and 9 a.m. on Fridays from the Anytime Fitness parking lot," she added. 

"I think we surprised a lot of people last year and we're setting the bar high, especially for a small town in eastern Ontario," the mayor added. 

"There's a real appetite that anybody can become fit with the right supports and there are lots of options in North Grenville there is no doubt," Peckford said.

The ParticipAction Community Better Challenge runs until June 30.