Laurier to help offer fitness activities to women new to Canada


Wilfrid Laurier University is helping to arrange fitness programming for newly arrived Canadian women and their children.

The project, called ACTIVEIntegration: Social integration through physical activity, will offer participants a place to socialize while staying physically active and learning basic fitness routines.

Activities are expected to start March 8 and 10 at the Victoria Hills and Chandler Mowat community centres, with space provided by the city of Kitchener.

ACTIVEIntegration was first suggested by Laurier’s Group Dynamics and Physical Activity Laboratory as a way to help the community and learn more about the role of physical activity in socialization. 

The project is supported by the non-profits Focus for Ethnic Women and the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, as well as both Laurier and Laurentian University. 

The project also receives the support of Laurier’s Sunlife Financial Centre for Physically Active Communities (CPAC) and the Region of Waterloo Public Health Unit.

A pilot version of the program ran throughout the end of last year, with exercises being led by a fourth-year Laurier student.

Nicole Vandermade, the program coordinator for CPAC, said the project was meant for those who may not have many opportunities to stay active.

“That’s what we’re focused on at CPAC, identifying pockets of population that don’t have access to physical activity or wellness programs because of whatever barriers they may face if they’re financial or transportation or language,” she said.

“All of our programming is free of charge, so we try to be that connection in the community.”

The activities will focus on barrier-free body-weight exercises, ranging from yoga to step classes to circuit training, among others.

“[The programs are] really a judgement-free zone where everyone can move at their own pace and do different levels and different variations of exercises depending on their comfort level,” said Vandermade. 

Vandermade said the pilot program last year was encouraging, with participants able to form connections in the community and learn more about Canadian customs.

One anecdote she offered was that parents were excited to learn the rules of popular sports in Canada, as they could share that with their children and play together.

In addition to ACTIVEIntegration, the Group Dynamics and Physical Activity Laboratory at Laurier studies a wide variety of topics related to fitness and socialization.

These include role acceptance in sports, cultural diversity in sports teams and the parent group in youth sports.

Mark Erys, head of the lab and one of the coordinators of the project, emphasized the intended social benefits of ACTIVEIntegration.

“We have a partnership grant that is intended to create these physical activity opportunities for women who are new to Canada, and we’re trying to do that in a group format so they have an opportunity to interact with others, meet new people, have these opportunities they might otherwise not have.” 

More information on the project can be found on Laurier’s website – alongside more information on CPAC and how students can volunteer.

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