Answered by: Allison Whitworth
Becoming active or increasing activity levels can sometimes be intimidating if you don’t have a good support system. An extremely helpful way of becoming more active is by doing it with a peer! The question is however, how do we find a peer that will help us become more active and who can be a positive mentor? One way to do this is by completing the Social Network Activity. This activity is used to understand your social network and find someone who would be a great activity partner.
Figure 1: Social Network Activity
For each list you create, the number of times you contact that person, the number of times you see them, how close distance wise they are from you and the level of emotional and actual aid they can support you with is all accounted. Once this has been completed, it becomes easier and clearer as to whom would be a good a peer. This peer could join you as an activity partner, be a good role model of activity or even just a motivator. Choosing someone who has your best interest at heart and who will keep you driven is going to help increase physical activity without the fear or pressure of being alone in the process. A study completed by Anderson, Brownson, Goenka, Heath, Owen, Parra, and Sarmiento (2012), found that social support amongst communities, workplaces, and between friends and family had a positive effect on someone’s frequency and reinforces good physical activity behaviour.
After establishing a core network of people to help you feel supported, you can look into different physical activities that may interest you. If you find that you do not have a strong social network, other options are available to help you increase your physical activity levels. For examples, there are numerous blogs and vlogs that allow you to follow someone else’s journey or find a physical activity peer. Brackbill, Centola, Jingwen, and Yang (2015), studied the effect of promotional messaging and online social influence. The authors found that promotional messaging increased enrollment in exercise classes and that anonymous social messaging had a significant positive effect on increasing one’s physical activity. Using this information we can infer that it would beneficial for an individual who wanted to increase physical activity but didn’t want to do it alone to use online resources to achieve their goal.
Overall, knowing these resources, someone who is looking to be more physically active but doesn’t want to go alone should look into recruiting a family member, a spouse, a close friend or online resources.
Heath, G. W., Parra, D. C., Sarmiento, O. L., Andersen, L. B., Owen, N., Goenka, S., Brownson, R. C. (2012). Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: Lessons from around the world. The Lancet, 380(9838), 272-281.
Zhang, J., Brackbill, D., Yang, S., & Centola, D. (2015). Efficacy and causal mechanism of an online social media intervention to increase physical activity: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 651-657.
Answered by: Julian Baird
Getting active doesn’t have to be so difficult, especially if you’ve got a supportive friend or two to help keep you motivated along the way. Finding the right supportive friend(s) for you doesn’t have to be difficult either. No matter your level of disability or experience in physical activity, there are services designed to match you with a peer who can help you navigate around each of life’s hurdles. Whether you’re struggling with finding an accessible gym, or a new sport team, or some workout buddies who can identify with your individual situation, peer support services from your local branch of Spinal Cord Injury Canada or MS Society of Canada are great resources to help you get started on your path to becoming more physically active.
Perhaps you’ve tried accessing these resources and are looking for something more. In this case, you might try contacting your local YMCA or gym of choice directly to see what programs they offer to meet your individual needs. If the facility or staff fails to meet your needs, remember to let them know by submitting a formal complaint so that they may understand which improvements will be necessary in the future.
If you are looking to get involved in sport at any level (recreationally or competitively), be sure to check out the ‘Find A Club’ tool on the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s website. From there, you can find contact information for the nearest club that offers whichever sports that best suit your interests. If there appears to be no club in your area, have no fear – the Bridging the Gap program exists to ensure that every Canadian has access to sport. Keep in mind that wheelchair sport is for everyone, not just full-time wheelchair-users, so feel free to invite any of your friends, regardless of ability, along with you to your first practice.
There are literally dozens of people waiting to join you on your path to becoming more physically active. Get out there and meet them!