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Men's fitness study partners with Kitchener Rangers

'Hockey Fans in Training' is partnering with several OHL teams for a 12-week fitness program to help hockey fans lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle
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A Western University fitness study is growing in popularity.  So much, that officials have partnered with several OHL teams to help hockey fans live a healthy lifestyle.

Professor Robert Petrella --- a physician and researcher --- says it was very difficult to get men involved in fitness regimes, and wanted to engage those men before they developed things like heart disease or diabetes.  So to develop ways to help get men into these healthy behaviour change, Petrella says they looked to the UK.

"We did some research and found that men like to be around other men," he said, "They like to use athleticism and sport as ways of coming together and having a common bond."

"We found with work that was done in the UK, that when men who were fans of their local soccer team were approached to be involved in health behaviour change, they actually really liked it and they actually attended these kinds of programs."

He says since hockey is Canada's game, they tried it out by developing "Hockey Fans in Training," a 12-week dryland program ---once a week for 90 minutes --- that involves education and exercise to positive results and involved a pair of OHL teams: the London Knights and Sarnia Sting.

"By the end of 12 weeks, we found that they got about an average 10 pound weight loss, they got an improved blood pressure of about 10 millilitres of mercury, which is about as much as we get with a single drug medication, treatment of blood pressure."

The first nine weeks were conducted at local YMCA's with trained coaches, while the final three weeks were based at hockey rinks.

"(Holding part of the program at hockey rinks is) where the guys kind of really feel part of the team," he said, "They get to go hang out in the locker room, they maybe use the concourse in the arena."

"Some of the players, staff might come by and encourage them.  So not only are they getting health benefits, but we're giving them what they're asking for, which is really having that team aspect, that common bond around that local hockey team, support them as they make these health changes."

The initial testing also involved a one-year waiting period, to see if the men could keep off the weight, which they did for the most part.

Petrella says the positive results prompted them to open the program up on a wider scale, getting funding from a number of partners including Health Canada.

The new roll out will start out the first week of March, involving nine communities, including Kitchener.  However, the recruitment process is ongoing for nine more cities, such as Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, with hopes of launching there in April.

And they're already talking with officials in the Western Hockey League, in hopes of further expanding the program out west.

As for recruitment, Petrella adds they didn't need to do much besides utilize the social media channels of several teams.

"We've developed some very simple messaging. We provide that in a kit, we call it the playbook, to the team, branded to (in this case) the Kitchener Rangers, get sent out on their social media channels."

Of note, Petrella complimented the reception from fans in Kitchener, calling them "really bright stars."

"We had a huge response, such that we opened a second group," he said, "We're really looking to try and recruit about 40 to 50 guys for each community into the program...we got many more than that."

He says they are still recruiting for that second group, and you can sign up at HockeyFansInTraining.org and select your favourite team.

They are looking for overweight men between 35-65, as part of the study.  But he says they've been getting interest from women wanting to participate, and notes they are looking to adapt the program to females too.

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