The University of Windsor’s Department of Kinesiology’s APEX Research Group supports healthy living of people with disabilities (autism spectrum and intellectual disability (ASD-ID) through physical activity. APEX programs improve fitness and motor skills of adults with ASD-ID, while teaching proper exercise techniques safely. APEX programming has been positively evaluated by participants and support staff, identified as providing confidence skills to engage in an active lifestyle, resulting in continued exercise engagement. The impact of this program is extended and sustained through knowledge transferred by way of an APEX manual, website, workshops/webinars and lay-based videos. This program highlights a model of a sustained community-based health program for people with developmental disabilities.
Health Promotion Programming for School-Aged Children
The Department of Kinesiology regularly partners with public health departments and other community partners across Ontario to evaluate various health initiatives and policies. Working mainly with school-aged children and adolescents, health promotion initiatives are collaboratively designed, implemented, and evaluated within the school environment. Examples include various school snack programs (the Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program and Farm to School models), Kinect-Ed (nutrition and cooking intervention), Girls in Motion (introducing females to non-traditional physical activity), Run Jump Play Throw (physical literacy intervention), and a media literacy intervention for body image, self-esteem, and disordered eating. Understanding the broad influence that school environments can have on student learning and growth, the collaborative research and programming approach helps create evidence for healthy, safe, and supportive learning environments that can then be transferred into different school contexts.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death in Canada, the United States and worldwide. Despite widespread availability of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs as a secondary prevention strategy for those with CVD, it remains under-utilized. Moreover, the degree of benefit in clinical subgroups, optimal program duration and ideal program content are not clear. Our researchers in the Department of Kinesiology have partnered with established and well respected CR programs in southern Ontario (including Windsor-based Cardiac Wellness – Hotel Dieu Grace) and in Michigan to better understand the value of CR, and to maximize future program benefit. The different yet complementary models of care in Canada and the United States will allow us to comprehensively explore the influence of intake status and program factors on morbidity and mortality outcomes. It is hoped that this work will lay a foundation for larger scale studies spanning CR centres across North America, with the ultimate goal of creating the best possible patient standard of care and outcomes.
Gender equity continues to elude sport organizations at all levels of commitment and strategies to generate greater equity based on gender have had limited success. Thus, a greater understanding of the status quo is required for more effective intervention and positive change. Leadership Advancement of Women in Sport (LAWS) is a local organization that promotes and seeks to bridge the gap of females in leadership positions in sports in Windsor/Essex. In conjunction with the Department of Kinesiology, objectives include: developing and promoting public health by educating and instructing the public about the value of physical activity for females through research; documentation of the benefits of an active lifestyle and the barriers to equal access to sport; educating the public about the physical, mental, social, and professional benefits of physical activity for females; knowledge translation through courses, programs (e.g., GOALS, Girls in Motion) seminars, conferences, and meetings.
In collaboration with the Student Counselling Centre at the University of Windsor, the Faculty of Human Kinetics will conduct a long-term physical activity intervention aimed at improving the mental health of university students. This is timely given the demand for mental health services on campus continues to rise.
Participants referred from counselling services receive supervised personal training, in addition to physical activity counselling to enhance motivation to engage in physical activity without supervision. After 6 weeks, participants have the opportunity to continue their exercise on their own or with a “buddy” as a tapering protocol to ensure they feel they can continue to exercise. Research has shown that working out with a “buddy” is an effective strategy for overcoming exercise barriers in university students.
Benefits to the participants include immediate support for their mental health needs, and improved mental and physical health. Benefits to the University of Windsor community includes reduced demands for mental health services while helping the student body cope with mental illness and stress.
Despite the wide-reaching benefits of physical activity for mental health, studies examining the role of physical activity in reducing acute mental health concerns are lacking. Our research program will help to fill this gap. Furthermore, given the increases in mental health concerns among university students and the burden that is placed on counseling services, any efforts aimed at improving mental health among university students are necessary.
Ergonomic Partnerships with Automotive Industry
The field of Ergonomics focuses on the interaction of the human within their workplace environment, both physically (physical demands associated with work) and cognitively (ensure appropriate interactions between work, products and environment), to mitigate workplace injury risk and optimize human-machine interactions. The University of Windsor’s Kinesiology department is uniquely positioned as a leader in the field of Ergonomics given our expertise in human movement, including: anatomy, physiology, motor control, biomechanics, performance based psychology, and aging. Furthermore, our program succeeds from our community involvement in Canada’s largest manufacturing centre through our research partnerships with local automotive assembly plants including the Windsor Assembly Plant (Fiat Chrysler Automotive), and Ford’s Windsor Engine Plant and Essex Engine Plant. Since the Ergonomics program inception in 1997, we have established an outstanding reputation within the Windsor community industrial sector of producing well trained undergraduate and graduate students who are highly sought-after following graduation.