Jessica Eisener, wellness navigator in the Western Zone, is instilling confidence while helping clients move more and sit less

Photo of Jessica Eisener, Wellness Navigator in Nova Scotia Health’s Western Zone
Photo of Jessica Eisener, Wellness Navigator in Nova Scotia Health’s Western Zone

Many of us know that we need more movement in our daily lives, but it can be difficult to know where to start, especially while living with a chronic health condition.

“Our world is set up for convenience, so it takes a mind shift to add more movement into our lives,” said Jessica Eisener, wellness navigator in Nova Scotia Health’s Western Zone.

In this newly created role, Eisener facilitates individual sessions with referred patients from various care clinics and providers across the Western Zone. She splits her time between her homebase in Digby, the town of Annapolis, Clare and travels to Yarmouth once a month. Her clients are usually living with one or more chronic health conditions and providers feel that exercise would improve their quality of life.

“My role primarily focuses on physical activity counselling while also doing exercise prescriptions, exercise plan design and navigation,” explained Eisener. “I work with clients to establish fitness goals, which help determine whether the patient is mentally and physically ready to begin to exercise, then establish an individually tailored goal plan.”

Eisener helps her clients establish the ‘why’ of their movement goals, which can include reducing their medication, sleeping better, pain reduction, losing weight or improvements to their mental health. She also remains in a supporting role by meeting with clients monthly and helps them stay accountable through the Go Get Fit app in between visits. The app allows Eisener to monitor her clients’ progress as they work towards their fitness goals.

She acknowledged that it can be difficult for clients to start adding more movement into their daily routine and the biggest barrier she faces in her role is helping build clients’ confidence. “It can be overwhelming for patients during their first visit when they realize they aren’t meeting any of the 24 Movement Guidelines,” said Eisener.

The 24 Movement Guidelines provide direction on what a healthy 24 hours looks like for Canadian adults aged 18-64 years and 65 years or older. The guidelines encourage adding different types of movement to your day at various intensity levels, including physical activity, muscle strengthening activities and standing, and developing routine rituals to reach a healthy 24 hours.

“I am there to remind my clients that these are just guidelines, not rules. It is my job to find a way to meet them where they are and build their confidence with small steps. We have conversations about what is manageable and develop reasonable expectations. The goal is to develop life-long habits.”

Eisener also leads group classes for some of her clients, such as an introduction to strength training and fitness education sessions for the management of their chronic health condition. “People attending the group classes have provided feedback that they are liking the group session and enjoying meeting people with the same chronic health condition."

Her favourite part of the role is simple: helping people. “Success can look different for everyone and be hard to define. Before they might have avoided exercise, but they realize that one small change can be an improvement.”

Eisener encourages her clients and all Nova Scotians to ask themselves how they are adding movement into their daily lives. Whether it is walking to get your mail or parking further away from the grocery store, a little more movement can benefit us all!