In 2016, Swedish exercise experts Dr. Anna Bjerkefors and Mats-Erik Bjerkefors came to Vancouver on a BICP-funded international travel award to collaborate with Dr. Tania Lam and her team in ICORD’s Yuel Family Physical Activity Research Centre (PARC) to develop workshops to train fitness leaders how to work with people with SCI. The PARC team successfully ran two pilot workshops in the summer of 2016: one for SCI peers and PARC students, and another for community trainers. They received great feedback as well as lots of requests for future training opportunities. Around the same time, the PARC team also launched an initiative to explore the feasibility and benefits of group exercise programs (spin classes, boxercise training, circuit training) for people with SCI. Last year, PARC staff began collaborating with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and the City of Surrey Parks, Recreation & Culture to provide training for their community fitness leaders on how to work with individuals with disabilities.
A staff inservice for nearly 40 Vancouver Community Centre trainers at ICORD in March 2018 was a huge success, and the pilot data that was collected showed a significant increase in the trainers’ knowledge and confidence. Using data from the workshops with the Swedes and this inservice, Dr. Lam and her team successfully applied for a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Grant of $10,000to continue working with Vancouver and Surrey to train their trainers and assist in updating their facilities to be more inclusive.
Building on their experience offering adaptive spin classes at ICORD, the PARC team helped establish an inclusive spin program at Vancouver’s Champlain Community Centre and provided training to the instructor. The class offers the use of arm-cycles in addition to classic stationary bikes. Some PARC participants have started attending the weekly Champlain classes and have said they are awesome! Over the coming summer, the PARC team plans to continue to work with Surrey and Vancouver on inclusive fitness initiatives. They will be helping Vancouver to create more inclusive circuit training classes, and providing fitness leaders in Surrey with weight room experience and practical skills around inclusive equipment, and they’ve also started discussions with the Cities of Burnaby and Coquitlam to begin partnerships with their community centres as well!