Igniting fitness possibilities: Perspectives from youth, parents and staff on being able to participate

  • Tara Joy Knibbe University of Toronto, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Virginia Wright Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, University of Toronto
  • Jen Leake University of Toronto
  • Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulo University of Toronto, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Abstract

Background: Igniting Fitness Possibilities (IFP) is an inclusive physical activity program designed to foster a passion for physical activity among youth who are typically developing but inactive and youth with disabilities who as a group tend to engage in lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of sedentary behavior. Across youth, physical activity drastically declines during adolescence and physical activity patterns that are developed during this time often continue into adulthood. Purpose: To explore the experiences of participants in an IFP pilot for youth in grades 8 to 12 and illuminate the supportive components of IFP for youth participants. Method: A qualitative descriptive study employed in-depth, semi-structured interviews with youth who participated in the full 16-week program (n=4), their parents (n=4) and staff (n=4). Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Youth described several ways that they found IFP to be both supportive and inclusive. These include providing: a safe and welcoming space for participation, opportunities for new experiences, social inclusion, and an environment that celebrates diversity and fosters interdependence. Conclusions: These results emphasize the effectiveness of the program in supporting youth of a variety of abilities to participate in physical activity. It is important to create a space where youth feel welcome and comfortable with exploring new physical activities, where peers and coaches are inclusive and empower youth's confidence to practice independence, and different abilities are celebrated. These goals are important to consider in the design of future inclusive physical activity programs for youth.