Fit4Men program more than just exercise

ANTIGONISH: The organizer of an exercise program says it’s about providing an opportunity for men to be active together and build a sense of community.

The human kinetics department at StFX University is well underway with the third year of Fit4Men, an exercise program aimed at middle and older-aged men. Twice a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the group of men over the age of 35 gets together for an hour session of walking and exercising.

“It’s mostly walking-based and then we intersperse the walking with interval exercises,” Angie Kolen, a human kinetics professor told The Reporter. “We do 30-seconds of exercise, followed by one-minute of walk.”

When she describes it that way, it sounds like it’s all about the activity, but she said that what they’ve discovered over the past few years is that it’s more about companionship.

“It’s about the walking and talking; it’s about the group when we wait, while we all gather together and chatting and seeing how people are,” Kolen said. “It’s really a lot about community.”

She said men typically don’t sign up for exercise programs, despite the fact that the middle and older-aged are at particular risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

There’s different ways to define the program’s success Kolen advised, noting the fact that they don’t advertise but have this group of 20-25 core men coming every week, speaks for itself.

“The first time we knew the men who came regularly, they lost weight, they lost a pants size, because we actually take their physical measurements, their blood pressure was lower – we were ecstatic.”

This year, Kolen explained she has three honour students working alongside her, conducting research related to the Fit4Men program.

One is looking at the group effect – the cohesion and comradery of the men participating in the exercise group and how that influences quality of life. Several participants in the program are wearing a Fitbit – in which they will use the data to provide health promotion in terms of reducing sedentary time, talking about sleep time, and a little bit about physical activity.

The final student will ask the participants about their thoughts on their experiences with the Fitbit.

“I think the opportunity to get together and be part of the community is likely more important, can I prove that – no – but do we really need to?” Kolen said. “For mental health, this program is definitely needed, in times like these.”