I have had the great pleasure to facilitate the Active Living Program since it began in the Fall of 2012. For the past five years, twice weekly, I have witnessed healing, gratitude, increased self-esteem and confidence from a community of well deserving people. Everyone who attends this program has seen results and changes mentally, emotionally, socially and physically.

When we truly love people, we must meet them where they are, not where we think they should be. We must give them what they need, not what we think they need to have.

The Active Living Program is a 45-minute FREE exercise class for marginalized individuals who live in the city of North Vancouver. With uplifting music and clear, basic instructions interspersed with encouragement, each class consists of easy to follow, functional exercises. Each class ends with a 20-minute stretching and relaxation component with positive, stress releasing visualizations.

During the warmup, when catchy tunes are playing, participants have been known to break away from the routine to dance with one another. This is a testimony to the fun element that is inspired. Conversely, during the relaxation segment, some individuals seemingly take a moment for a well-needed cat nap.

Meet Evan* A forty-five-year-old male with a brain injury, living in a men’s group home. Evan enthusiastically climbs aboard his wheelchair scooter and rides the distance to attend the Active Living Program twice a week.

Meet Ragina* A thirty-eight-year-old widow, new to the country after tragically losing her husband. Regina finds comfort in her new friends at the Active Living Program.

Meet Marilyn* and Mathew* Seventy-year-old Marilyn suffers from curvature of the spine and osteoporosis. Mathew, her husband, lives in an assisted living care home for Alzheimer patients. Every Monday Marilyn picks up Mathew and together they attend the Active Living Program.

Meet Nancy* After years of struggling with Schizophrenia, thirty-year-old Nancy’s only caregivers – her parents – passed away. Now living alone, Nancy never misses her Active Living classes, even if her bus is late.

The classes are designed to inspire and encourage all fitness levels and capabilities in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. These components are what make the program so inviting and reassuring to its participants.

The clients come to class with their own unique personalities, attire and attitude. Some may be tired, feeling uneasy or perhaps, having a particularly off day. All are happy to be attending. Meeting others where they are at, patient, kind and not easily rattled is the perfect characteristics to lead such a class.

Having taught fitness classes for the past thirty-five years it has come to my attention that there is a gap and a need to reach out to those that might not fit into the regular category of avid fitness enthusiast. Fitness instructors most often see typical, accustomed gym goers, self-motivated, able to afford a gym membership or even a drop-in fee. Most of us have clients that work, raise families, enjoy retirement or attend school; all fitting comfortably into society.

Yes, we all have periodic struggles and we may occasionally have an injury or two…however, what about the people in our communities who have suffered from extreme health issues, unexpected adversity, poverty, addiction or a lifetime of hardship? Your class can be the safe haven, a place where they can go for a sense of community, core strength, movement, stretching and a kind word of encouragement in an unintimidating accepting


I have been able to decrease my medication for high blood pressure and depression. My friends are amazed

I plan my entire life around my two exercise classes, I am very sad if I have to miss one

I look forward to seeing Karen, she always shows me an easier way to do the exercise and I never feel embarrassed

My back does not hurt anymore at all, my doctor always told me to strengthen my stomach muscles but I have a very limited income, I don’t even own a computer

It’s so fun; I really, really appreciate the classes

My husband and I feel young again, just like when we used to go to dances in the old days

Karen HARMON is a certified Special Needs Teaching Assistant for the school district of West Vancouver. You can find Karen teaching a variety of fitness classes as a registered BCRPA fitness leader for the West Vancouver Community Center and the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Centre. If you would like any further information about Karen Harmon or the Active Living Program please contact her by email, Facebook or Instagram. Karmon70@gmail.com / Instagram: @karenharmonn Facebook: Karenharmonfitness

*names have been changed.

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