Wilfrid Laurier University helps organize fitness programs for newcomer Canadian women and their children.
The project, called ACTIVEIntegration: Social Integration Through Physical Activity, will provide participants with a place to socialize while staying physically active and learning basic fitness routines.
Activities are scheduled to begin March 8 and 10 at the Victoria Hills and Chandler Mowat Community Centers, with space provided by the City of Kitchener.
ACTIVEIntegration was first suggested by Laurier’s Group Dynamics and Physical Activity Lab as a way to help the community and learn more about the role of physical activity in socialization.
The project is supported by non-profit organizations Focus for Ethnic Women and the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, as well as Laurier and Laurentian universities.
The project is also supported by the Sunlife Financial Center for Physically Active Communities (CPAC) in Laurier and the Region of Waterloo Public Health Unit.
A pilot version of the program ran late last year, with exercises led by a fourth-year Laurier student.
Nicole Vandermade, program coordinator for CPAC, said the project was for those who might not have many opportunities to stay active.
“That’s what we’re focused on at CPAC, identifying pockets of people who don’t have access to physical activity or wellness programs because of the barriers they may face, whether they’re financial, transportation or language,” she said.
“All of our programming is free, so we try to be that link in the community.”
Activities will focus on barrier-free bodyweight exercises, ranging from yoga to step classes to circuit training, among others.
“[The programs are] really a judgment-free zone where everyone can move at their own pace and do different levels and different variations of exercises based on their comfort level,” Vandermade said.
Vandermade said last year’s pilot program was encouraging, as participants were able to bond in the community and learn more about Canadian customs.
One anecdote she told was that parents were excited to learn the rules of popular sports in Canada because they could share this with their children and play together.
In addition to ACTIVEIntegration, Laurier’s Group Dynamics and Physical Activity Laboratory studies a wide variety of topics related to fitness and socialization.
These include role acceptance in sports, cultural diversity in sports teams, and parent group in youth sports.
Mark Erys, lab manager and one of the project coordinators, outlined the expected social benefits of ACTIVEIntegration.
“We have a partnership grant that is aimed at creating these physical activity opportunities for women who are new to Canada, and we try to do this in a group format so that they have the opportunity to interact with others, to meet new people, to have those opportunities that they might not have otherwise.
More information about the project can be found on the Laurier website – as well as more information about CPAC and how students can volunteer.