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SIRC is pleased to be working together with Sport Canada to share current research on topics informing policy and promoting quality sport programming. This week we are sharing highlights of a recent article reviewing a research study evaluating NEWCOMERS EXPERIENCES WITH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN CANADA.

Fitting it in: How being new to Canada influences physical activity.

Curtin K, Loitz C, Spencer-Cavaliere N, and Khalema E. (2016). WellSpring, 27(5), 1-4.

Full study:

Curtin K, Loitz C, Spencer-Cavaliere N, and Khalema E. (2016). Challenges of being new to Canada: considerations for physical activity. Global Health Promotion, 2 July 2016.

SIRC Highlights from the research

NOTE: The article referenced here presents the findings from a study conducted by the Alberta Centre for Active Living which was later published in an issue of Global Health Promotion (link to study).

Increasingly Canada’s population includes people born outside of the country and research shows that, currently, immigrants are less likely to be physically active than non-immigrants. This research uses focus groups and Social Ecological Modelling (SEM) to examine barriers and possible solutions for facilitating access to physical activity for individuals new to Canada. Multicultural health brokers and students enrolled in English as a Second Language courses were part of the focus group interviews. In general, participants indicated that physical activity held value in their everyday lives.

Barriers to participation:

  • The Canadian focus on organized physical activity was less conducive their participation due to their physical activity culture which focuses more on incidental or daily life physical activity.
  • Language issues and administrative requirements make the Canadian system less open and accessible.
  • Family and friends are seen as motivators for participation and in Canada, the need to care for the family was a higher priority and thus time, motivation and energy to pursue physical activity was lacking.
  • Lack of community connectedness and a sense of isolation made participation more difficult.
  • Costs associated with Canadian-style physical activity options (equipment, memberships, etc.) are prohibitive. Additionally, working to make money for the family leaves less time and financial resources for physical activity. It was noted that though programs are in place to support those with lower incomes, access, awareness, and understanding of these programs is lacking. Qualification criteria for these programs often left these individual ineligible.
  • Colder Canadian weather was also seen as a barrier to being physically active.

SEM level barriers and possible interventions:

SEMs examine levels of influence of factors impacting physical activity participation including: individual intrapersonal (knowledge/attitudes), interpersonal, institutional/organizational, environmental, and public policy.

Individual Level:

Barriers:  Knowledge, attitudes, and motivation were identified as barriers.

Recommended Interventions:  Targeting individual knowledge, motivation, goal setting and strategies to overcome these barriers.

Interpersonal Level:

Barriers: Lack of community connectedness and prioritized needs of the family over physical activity.

Recommended Interventions: Promoting physical activity to new Canadians integrating family and community social support opportunities to create a culture of community recreation accessible and open to all community members.

Institutional Level:

Barriers: Long working hours, cost, language differences, lack of knowledge of recreation centre etiquette, program delivery, and financial assistance.

Recommended Interventions: Create more weekend opportunities and inclusive programs.

Environmental Level:

Barriers: Colder weather and shorter daylight hours.

Recommended Interventions: Targeted winter strategies such as clearing trails of snow and providing equipment such as skates to make physical activities more accessible.

Policy Level:

Barriers: Lack of accessibility to government programs (financial support, etc.), “lack of knowledge regarding policies to encourage participation, the inability to navigate applications systems, and a lack of consideration of family circumstances (i.e., dual income) or stages of transition to Canada which could make current policies inappropriate for this population”.

Recommended Interventions: Foster inclusion through use of immigration services to provide recreation passes to newcomers during transition and beyond their first year of immigration.

The authors stress that while there are opportunities to open accessibility of physical activity to new Canadians; it is important to recognize that multi-level interventions could and should be implemented. It should also be recognized that access to physical activity is only one aspect of transitioning that new Canadians are facing, but perhaps facilitating this context could help ease other areas of transition.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.