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Smoke from this summer’s wildfires is putting the spotlight on Alberta Lung’s new Walk to Breathe Move Challenge.

Lloydminster residents can help fund research, care, and support for those affected by lung disease by taking part in a virtual walk or activity of their choice.

“We’re making it virtual this year and we want to make it as inclusive as possible, not only because everyone can’t move the same way as everybody else, but because we want to make sure people stay safe with this wildfire,” said Alberta Lung’s marketing and communications coordinator Madison Furness on Monday.

She says the wildfires are focusing people’s attention on lung health, including her own, having moved from Ontario recently.

“I’m glad it has been raising more awareness for other people; it’s a little silver lining in it,” she said.

Recent air quality advisories warn exposure to air pollutants in wildfire smoke can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

“The movement can be any way to move your body to stay healthy, whether it be taking your dog out for a walk or if you’re staying indoors to do some online yoga or even taking an online cooking class with a partner,” said Furness.

“Those are all ways you can keep moving and we want to keep it as safe as possible.”

Stretching, dancing, and stair climbing are some indoor options if the air quality is bad.

“If going outside right now is not an option for you, that’s quite okay. We just want to encourage people to move their bodies as much as they can,” said Furness.

Anyone can register for free to walk and donate to the 2023 Alberta Lung Walk to Breathe Move Challenge on Facebook.

The funder challenge kicked off on Monday and runs until Sept. 4.

Alberta Lung notes 20 per cent of Alberta’s population lives with the challenges of lung and respiratory diseases every year.

Approximately 85,000 Alberta children under 14 have asthma, and every 15 minutes an Albertan enters an emergency room with an asthma attack,”

Walk to Breathe is a campaign conceptualized in 2020 by Chris Sadleir, son of Rob Sadleir, a living double-lung transplant recipient.

In 2014, the elder Sadleir was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) a serious lung disease that causes scar tissue to build up inside of the lung making it incredibly difficult to breathe.

It took two years for him to receive the transplant so he can breathe on his own.

“Being able to breathe independently again, after two years, was incredibly emotional,” said Sadleir in a campaign news release on July 17.

Since 2020, Walk to Breathe has raised over $100,000 for Alberta Lung’s Breathing Space, a home away from home for lung transplant patients.

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