A weekly exercise class in the Battlefords is providing a space for competitive and non-competitive special needs athletes to come together for a cardio workout and encourage healthy living.
Vidette Engelbrecht’s class at Snap Fitness includes workouts from step aerobics to distance training to yoga moves for balance and strength. There are usually between seven and 12 athletes who participate, including Engelbrecht’s daughter Frances.
“The reason why I started the fitness program is because there were lots of athletes who couldn't participate in sport and I always feel that our biggest need for people with special needs is to be physically active,” she said. “The big reason is if they're not physically active, with that comes mental and health problems as well.”
The class is part of Special Olympics Battlefords’ programming, along with a swim club and bowling, and Snap Fitness donates the space for the class. The Battlefords chapter of Special Olympics Saskatchewan was only started a few years ago. Before the chapter opened, athletes had to go to other towns and cities to participate in specialized programs.
Participant Kristin Hancock said she was excited when the Special Olympics Battlefords group started a few years ago, because there weren’t many options in the Battlefords before.
“I enjoy it and I like to stay healthy, I like to stay fit,” she said. “I do a bunch of things besides the class here; we do bowling on Saturdays and we do curling on Wednesdays too.”
Special Olympics Saskatchewan recently acknowledged Snap Fitness for the company’s involvement and Engelbrecht for her volunteer service.
Engelbrecht said over three years running the program, it’s been amazing to see the athletes’ progress. She said she also talks to them about makes healthy choices in their daily lives, and one man has lost 15 pounds since making the switch from drinking soda to drinking water.
“It’s amazing over the three years how much the athletes improved and how much they're looking forward to it,” she said. “It's something that can be offered anywhere as long as you've got some volunteers and a place to do it, and you don't need a heck of a lot of equipment. Music is a wonderful thing, music motivates people to move and just enjoy everything, so with a little bit of effort you can make a huge difference in so many people's lives.”
Engelbrecht said she doesn’t think her 45-minute cardio class is enough, and would like to expand it to take place more than once per week.
Sarah Rae is battlefordsNOW's court and crime reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or tweet her @sarahjeanrae.
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