You’ve got to have a plan to be successful.
Amy Latimer, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queens University, Kingston, and Executive Director of the Revved Up Exercise Program, knows that’s true...especially when it comes to leading a healthy, active life.
While doing her dissertation study 10 years ago, she found that all people, mobility impaired or not, are more likely to live an active lifestyle if they create a plan that covers what they will do, when they’ll do it, and the resources they need.
“The extra challenge for people with mobility issues,” explains Amy, “is that, in a small city like Kingston, existing facilities are either not physically accessible, or the staff don’t have the knowledge and expertise to support them in a typical gym setting.”
Enter the “Revved Up” Exercise Program where people with mobility impairments are supported to make and stick to a plan, and provided with adapted equipment for them to use. They discover that the rewards go beyond physical fitness, supporting numerous studies that show that the psychological benefits of physical activity for people with a spinal cord injury include pain management, lower levels of depression, less stress, and a better overall quality of life.
|Participant working with a trainer in the Revved Up Exercise Program.
Now, Amy’s original life plan didn’t include her work today but it did put her on the path. With a Degree in Human Kinetics under her belt, she dreamed of becoming an orthopedic surgeon – but that was before she discovered her passion for research.
As a third year undergraduate student studying how young children learn complex motor patterns, Amy was introduced to exercise psychology, which led to a new stream of research looking at the benefits of exercise for people with spinal cord injuries.
“It was clear that there was a lot of room to improve, and to make a difference in people’s lives,” explains Amy.
With support from the Rick Hansen Institute, and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Amy participated in the ‘Best and Brightest’ (Capacity Building) Program, and is now one of the Co- Principal Investigators on a research initiative to create an evidence-based physical activity guide for people with spinal cord injury.
Amy Latimer participated in RHI's Best and Brightest Program. PHOTO CREDIT: Derrick Rice
Kingston is such a small community that Amy’s work often spills over into her personal life, both through volunteering and on the street. “If I see someone with mobility issues on the street that I don’t know, I wonder why they’re not in Revved Up, and what they’re doing for physical activity.” While she does not approach the individuals she sees directly, she is reminded of the need for continued broad recruitment efforts to promote physical activity within the Kingston community.
Amy hopes to expand the program to recreational activities outside the gym, such as curling, and works with the Canadian Paraplegic Association of Ontario to help them promote the benefit of exercise. She hopes that, one day, mobility exercise programs like Revved Up will be fully recognized and covered by Government benefits or health insurance companies because she’s seen what a difference can be made.
She remembers a program participant who lost some of her mobility after a stroke at age 25 who can now dress herself and lift her arms.
“It’s about getting strong enough to do small-but-important things like move from a wheelchair to a bed unassisted. And it’s about helping people feel part of a community. There’s a sense of belonging. Our idea is to make Kingston one of the most active communities for people with disabilities.”
Now that’s a great plan.
About the Revved Up Program
Participant and trainer in the SKHS
Revved Up is a community initiative to help adults with physical disabilities to exercise. Twice a week, participants meet with a volunteer exercise assistant and follow a prescribed exercise regiment, using specially adapted equipment.
Opened in 2007, the program operates at two locations: Queens University School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (which has a fully accessible gym equipped with treadmills and bikes adapted for wheelchair users, free weights and pulleys, and weight machines), and at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital. Currently, the program is funded through a Quality of Life Grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
The program also provides university researchers with access to valuable data while tracking participant progress.