Virtual Naval Battle Improves Health of Personnel in Halifax

March 16, 2021 – A virtual naval battle based on the Canadian sea shanty Barrett’s Privateers has provided the platform for engaging naval staff from CFB Halifax to improve their physical and mental health through daily physical activity and peer support. Written by Stan Rogers, the song’s 10 verses describe a young sailor being enlisted by Captain Barrett to “sail the seas for American gold” during the war of 1776. Barrett’s ship encounters many challenges on its journey down to Montego Bay and is ultimately sunk in battle, forcing the sailor to return to Halifax badly wounded, “the last of Barrett’s privateers”.

When over 600 participants from CFB Halifax signed on to crew the virtual privateer ships, the huge increase in daily exercise (60%) and drop in sedentary lifestyles (43% to 8%) resulted in substantial health benefits. High blood pressure readings dropped from 11% to 6%, and abdominal obesity dropped from 35% to 29%. Improvements in mental health measures were also impressive, with reductions in high stress (14% to 10%), poor sleep (33% to 23%), and excess fatigue (11% to 2%).

On March 22, the faculty and staff of the McGill Comprehensive Health Improvement Program will launch a new Pirates and Privateers Mission for Canadian Veterans, their families and friends. The web-based program is funded by the Canadian Veterans and Family Innovations Fund. Over the course of the 10-week mission, veterans’ families will be encouraged to exercise daily, track their progress on the map that follows each verse of the song, and connect with their teammates.

And unlike the poor, wounded sailor from Stan Roger’s sea shanty, all participants will eventually return to Halifax healthier and happier.

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