AbstractFitness professionals may play a large role in providing and facilitating social support in online exercise classes for adults living with cancer. However, there is limited research regarding training fitness professionals receive for providing effective social support, especially in the online context. Guided by Feeney and Collins' (2015) social support theory, this study looked to examine current practices for training fitness professionals to provide and facilitate social support in online exercise classes for adults living with cancer. Training materials from an established evidence-informed program were reviewed, and a training session was observed, in which ethnographic field notes were taken. Fitness professionals were taught to create a welcoming environment by providing a comfortable space (e.g., listen to or comfort those struggling), engaging participants in social interactions (e.g., greet, check-in, use names), and being positive and upbeat (e.g., being energetic, personable in class). They were taught to support participants through helping improve their exercise ability and reach goals by supporting autonomy (e.g., ask reasons for attending), providing encouragement (e.g., encourage to goal-set), providing informational support (e.g., communicate exercise benefits), and supporting mastery (e.g., provide modifications). Fitness professionals were also taught skills that could facilitate their ability to provide support to participants in the online context, including establishing rapport with other fitness professionals in the class, and addressing the challenges of delegating to one another when online. Understanding what fitness professionals are learning about social support can help identify gaps in their training and inform future training practices.
Acknowledgments: Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary; Training in Research and Clinical Trials in Integrative Oncology (TRACTION) program