The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced challenges to all Canadians, but its impact has been greater on more vulnerable community members, says UWindsor kinesiology professor Chad Sutherland.
He is part of a team that has produced a report recommending ways to make access to sport, recreation, and fitness equitable for everyone — especially given additional barriers the pandemic has presented.
Sutherland, director of operations for the Centre for Human Performance and Health, was invited to the national project based on his 12 years of experience with physical activity programming for adults with autism spectrum disorder and an intellectual disability as well as other vulnerable groups.
“I wanted to share how the pandemic has interrupted their ability to engage in many physical activity programs, resulting in negative impacts on both their physical and mental health,” he says. “Furthermore, this impact is two-fold as their family members and support staff have also been faced with unprecedented challenges to their personal health and wellness.”
He says the centre will use the resulting report, Change for Good Health: Blueprint for Canada, as a resource informing its inclusive fitness programs for marginalized groups on campus and within the community — and in training the next generation of health professionals.
It outlines six key target areas for action to reach more people with options for physical activity:
- Accomplish more together by building the tools and partnerships to share lessons and best practices across the health and wellness sector.
- Democratize physical activity. Build accessible and inclusive sport, recreation, and physical activity programs.
- Make sport and physical activity a welcoming and safe space for all.
- Make physical activity approachable, relevant, and relatable. Set achievable goals for physical activity and involve marginalized communities in developing programs.
- Ensure those who deliver programming are equipped to address the social and mental health impacts of physical inactivity.
- Start early with health literacy. Incorporate movement at an early age and work to build a foundation in health literacy that will set people up for success.
Participants in the research team plan to pursue collaboration opportunities and innovative ways to create new projects and improve existing ones.