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Summer student shows impact of PARC

Eliana (right) with Sharon Jang (centre) and Ali Williams, at Eliana’s poster presentation on August 17.

Burnaby South Secondary Grade 11 student Eliana Bond joined ICORD for six weeks in the summer of 2018 as part of our pilot Summer Research Program for Indigenous Youth.* She spent time working in the Ghahary, Tetzlaff, and Laule Labs, PARC, and Human Locomotion Lab.

During the time she spent in PARC, Eliana did a qualitative research project about what PARC means to the participants. With the help of graduate student Sharon Jang and support of Dr. Tania Lam, Eliana analyzed her data, prepared a research poster, and presented her poster at a special session on her last day at ICORD.

Eliana’s project showed that PARC has had a meaningful positive impact on users the participant’s lives by creating a safe community space where people can exercise without judgement and with assistance, that facilitates social interactions.

*If you, or someone you know, would be interested in participating in this paid six-week research exploration program next summer, please contact us for more information.

A day in the Physical Activity Research Centre: users’ perspectives on community building, exercising, and socializing.

Eliana Bond, Burnaby South Secondary; Sharon Jang, ICORD and UBC Rehabilitation Sciences; Tania Lam, ICORD and UBC School of Kinesiology

Background

PARC is a community-based research facility that is committed to motivating the spinal cord injury community to participate in research on physical activity and exercise.

PARC hopes to exchange ideas between the SCI community and ICORD researchers to get a better understanding of people with disabilities.

Their research goal is to examine physical activity outcomes in people with SCI to see whether exercise leads to benefits in the participant’s physical function, fitness, or quality of life.

Purpose

The purpose of this qualitative research study is to investigate and better understand what PARC means to the participants.

Methods & Analysis

  • Graduate student (GS) provided the student assistant (SA) with an introduction/lesson to qualitative work and interviewing
  • SA learned proper means of communicating with participants and learned basic interviewing skills, and practiced with the GS
  • SA and GS worked together to create an interview guide
  • SA and GS interviewed 3 participants the first day, and the SA interviewed 4 participants independently on the second day
  • Average interview time: 13 minutes and 6 seconds

Analyzing Data

  • Deductive coding was completed based on the GS’s experience at PARC
  • Coding and transcriptions occurred concurrently by the SA
  • Pseudonyms were provided for all participants to ensure anonymity
  • A thematic analysis was completed, and three main themes emerged: “A safe space for all of us,” Exercise: “anyone can do it,” and “We are all in similar positions”

Trustworthy Strategies

  • SA piloted interview questions with the graduate student prior to interviewing
  • SA and GS reflected together after each interview on the first day on how the interview went, and discussed how the next interview could be improved
  • A research journal was kept to describe details of the environment and the participant

Demographics

Participant Activities at PARC Injury Type Time since Injury Time They’ve Been at PARC
Sarah Cardio, Classes/Group Activities MS >10 years >2 years
Daniel Weights and Classes/Group Activities Tumor Surgery L102 >10 years >2 years
Bruce Cardio C5/6 SCI >10 years >2 years
Meghan Cardio, Weights and Classes/Group Activities C3/4 SCI <10 years <2 years
David Cardio and Weights MS >10 years >2 years
Lisa Cardio and Weights MS >10 years <2 years
Kevin Cardio, Weights, and Group Activities T4 SCI >10 years >2 years

Table 1: Characteristics of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Results

Theme 1: “A safe space for all of us”

All participants reported that they feel a sense of community and felt welcomed at PARC. Regardless of their different levels of participation, whether watching others or being apart of it, PARC has been shown to be a “close-knit community” (Meghan, <2 years at PARC) where participants feel welcomed and accepted.

Some factors that contributed to the community included feelings of not being judged, being able to connect and relate to others, and a friendly, positive space.

“The fear of being judged is minimized.” (Lisa, >2 years at PARC)

“Everyone can relate and connect in some sort of way in PARC.” (Kevin, <2 years at PARC)

“Everybody’s always friendly and […] accommodating and […] it is a safe place to be.” (Meghan, <2 years at PARC)

Participants also reported a sense of being welcomed:
“When you are greeted at the window with a big smile and hello… you feel welcomed.” (David, >2 years at PARC)

Theme 2: Exercise: “Anyone can do it”

All participants reported that although they present a form of disability, PARC has motivated them to exercise, changed their opinion of exercise, and allowed them to be able to participate in exercise. PARC has created an environment where they can work out and also have the support and motivation of volunteers when needed.

“[Exercising] helps to maintain [my] physical ability and quality of life” (Daniel, >2 years at PARC)

“It’s hard to do it outside because it’s hard to find help as well, whereas [at PARC] […] you got volunteers to help you set up” (Daniel, >2 years at PARC)

“Even though I have a disability, even though I can’t walk anymore, I can still participate in exercise.” (Sarah, <2 years at PARC)

Participants also greatly appreciated the volunteers:
“[The volunteers are] really supportive and always motivating […]. You want to feel at home and want to feel safe because you know if you struggle with anything, you can always fall on them for assistance.” (Meghan, <2 years at PARC)

Theme 3: “We are all in similar positions”

All participants reported that they socialized in different amounts at PARC. They reported that they have created new relationships with the other participants and volunteers. Benefits of these interactions include decreased feelings of loneliness, finding others in similar situations, receiving advice, and finding out about other studies.

“We tend to feel really lonely and isolated […]. If you meet some [of the] other people [at PARC] and have some talks with them and find that […] we are all in similar positions.” (Meghan, <2 years at PARC)

“I have made a lot of new friends. They give […] [exercise advice] and ways to manage pains and injuries.” (Sarah, >2 years at PARC)

“I would not have been how aware of [studies] if I have not come to PARC, so in that some of [the studies] have made a significant change in my life.” (David,  >2 years at PARC)

Conclusion

This qualitative research project has provided a greater depth into what PARC means to the participants and has shown that PARC has a meaningful impact on the participant’s lives by creating a safe community space, being able to exercise without judgment and with assistance, and facilitating social interactions.

These findings support the notion that individuals with disabilities are able to be physically active, and that by providing accessible spaces, we are able to potentially benefit physical, social, and mental health.

Appendix

Cardio Weights Classes/Group Activities
Arm Cycle Standing Frame Spin Classes
New Step Free Weights Boxing Class
SCI Fit Pulley Monthyl Massage Class
Elliptical Hip Twist Yoga Class
Theratrainer Ping Pong
Mario Kart Arm Cycle