Hockey FIT program shows significant improvements for men’s health

Author: Movember
When Andrew Gill decided to join Hockey Fans in Training (Hockey FIT) pilot program he was struggling with chronic back pain, was having difficulty sleeping and was frustrated with trying to find clothes large enough for his size. Today, he has dropped 40 pounds and kept it off, and has seen significant improvements to his overall health. “The Hockey FIT program had an overwhelmingly positive impact on my life,” he said.
Beyond the anecdotal evidence, a new study from Western University by program creator Dr. Rob Petrella shows that the pilot program, which uses the fan culture around junior hockey to motivate men to exercise and eat healthy, led to significant weight loss and improvements in the health of its participants.
With ties to the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting and London Knights, the program used facilities at the hockey arena and Goodlife and featured “off-ice” hockey-style drills in order to engage men through a strong sense of affiliation as a fan of junior hockey.
The study, published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisedemonstrated that at 12 weeks, the 80 men recruited into the Hockey FIT program were 10 times more likely to achieve weight loss of at least 5 per cent of their body weight versus men in a comparator group. They also maintained their weight loss to 12 months and demonstrated greater improvements in their level of physical activity and healthful eating.
Dr. Petrella, Professor of Family Medicine at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry says weight loss is an important part of improved health. “Chronic diseases are primarily linked to poor lifestyle habits including inactivity and unhealthy eating habits.  Lifestyle changes could eliminate most of the risk for poor health but men invariably have been difficult to engage and retain.  Men’s health including obesity is worse than women’s and getting even worse,” said Dr. Petrella.
Participant Rick Corin joined Hockey FIT as a way to improve his fitness level and overall health.  “I looked at it as a way for the ‘couch potato’ hockey fan to get active especially during hockey season when activities are at a minimum,” he said.
“Indicators give men’s health in Canada a failing grade,” said Dr. Petrella “Hockey FIT is a game-changer since it plays to what men want, where and how they want to address overweight and obesity; through the power of their love of being a sports fan.”
The pilot program, which was funded through an Innovation Challenge Grant from the Movember Foundation, is a 12-week weight loss and healthy lifestyle program targeted at overweight and obese men. Previous studies have shown that the prevalence of obesity is disproportionately higher in middle-aged men than women of the same age.
“We know that lifestyle behaviours impact negatively on physical and mental health and wellbeing. Men are traditionally considered a hard to reach population for lifestyle change programs, but this program was able to effectively reach, engage and retain men through a sports based approach,” said Craig Martin, Global Director, Mental Health & Suicide Prevention, The Movember Foundation. “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to fund a project that effectively engages Canadian men to improve their health and wellbeing.”
Dr. Petrella hopes to now expand the program further and complete a definitive trial across Canada to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.
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