Using hockey culture in southwestern Ontario to improve men’s health

In Canada, 40 per cent of men are overweight, one of the highest risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Of those men, sports fans are more likely than non-sports fans to have poor health.

Now, thanks to a Men's Health & Wellbeing Challenge Grant from the Movember Foundation, Dr. Robert Petrella and his colleagues from Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the Faculty of Health Sciences are beginning a pilot project called Hockey Fit with the aim of motivating those sports fans to get into shape and live healthier lifestyles.

The Movember Challenge called upon Canadians to submit their creative and innovative ideas that aimed to disrupt long held assumptions about men's health, focus on positive elements of masculinity, and get men to take action with their health. The Hockey Fit program was one of 15 projects across Canada to have been awarded funding.

By using sports teams as the motivation, Hockey Fit will recruit men at the greatest risk for poor health and provide them with the skills and tools to lose weight.

“Our goal is to create momentum and excitement around men’s health and associate it with club-based sports,” said Dr. Petrella, a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Professor of Kinesiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Assistant Director at Lawson Health Research Institute. “We know that hockey is the bread and butter of the male psyche in Canada, so we are looking forward to partnering with Ontario Hockey League teams here in southwestern Ontario.”

Hockey Fit has already attracted attention and interest from both the London Knights and Sarnia Sting, and the idea is that sports fans would have the chance for 90 minutes per week over a 12-week period to train with Hockey Fit coaches who will provide men with ways to improve their lifestyles including creating personalized health and nutrition plans and leading them through sports-based training exercises.

The grant from the Movember Foundation will allow Dr. Petrella and his colleagues to implement the pilot with the aim of eventually taking the model and expanding it across Canada in partnership with other junior and professional hockey teams and university-based sports.

"An idea, no matter how small can help change the face of men's health and that's exactly what the Innovation Challenge is focused on," said Pete Bombaci, Country Director, Movember Canada. "It's because of the commitment of our Mo Bros and Mo Sistas that sign up every Movember to help us raise funds and awareness for men's health that we are able to invest in these projects."