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Fit Together participant Nicolas Tran builds up his leg strength under the watchful eye of volunteer trainer Tyler Snyder.Fit Together participant Nicolas Tran builds up his leg strength under the watchful eye of volunteer trainer Tyler Snyder, a fourth-year psychology student.

Agency celebrates success of exercise program for people with an intellectual disability

Participating in Fit Together, an exercise program adapted for adults with an intellectual disability, built her physical strength and her social skills, says Brigitte Gagnon.

“The Fit Together program has given me confidence and made me feel healthier,” she said Tuesday in the St. Denis Centre, as administrators, volunteers, and participants gathered to celebrate the conclusion of a three-year, $164,900 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

A partnership between the Department of Kinesiology’s Adapted Physical Exercise Research Group (APEX) and Community Living Essex County, the program involved participants working one-on-one with volunteer trainers to complete two 90-minute workouts per week for 13 weeks, at the University’s fitness facilities.

Karen Bolger, executive director of Community Living Essex County, said the program opened doors and broke down barriers for the participants.

“They increased their level of physical activity and understanding of the importance of an active lifestyle,” she said.

Kinesiology professors Sean Horton, Nadia Azar, and Chad Sutherland supervise grad student co-ordinators of the project, as well as some 150 UWindsor students who have served as volunteer trainers.

“Altogether, they have contributed 6,000 hours of volunteer time,” Dr. Horton said. “They have made an important difference in someone’s life.”

Rachel Smits, a second-year kinesiology major, called the opportunity to work with the participants “really inspiring” and said it will inform her career choices: “The things I have learned through this experience is something I could never learn in a classroom.”

Although the Trillium grant has now concluded, the APEX team plans to continue the Fit Together program, and is “actively seeking” new funding, said Horton.

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