A husband-and-wife team at UBC is helping ensure that Games volunteers are in tip-top shape.
Darren Warburton and Shannon Bredin have developed Getting Games Fit – a 12-week interactive program designed to boost the health of the 25,000 Games volunteers. “It is our aim to reduce the risks for common Games-related injuries such as sprains, strains and fractures, and heart attacks,” says Warburton. “To our knowledge, this is the first-ever program of this nature for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Warburton is an associate professor and director of UBC’s Cardiovascular Physiology and Rehabilitation Laboratory, while Bredin is an assistant professor and director of the Cognitive and Functional Learning Laboratory.
Their preventative Games program anticipates the volunteer injuries that can occur. At the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, for example, more than 55 per cent of medical incidents originated with the volunteer workforce. Common issues include injuries to shoulders, the lower back, knees and ankles – plus “cardiovascular events,” such as heart ailments.
The duo’s inspiration for Getting Games Fit came from Jack Taunton, the Chief Medical Officer for Vancouver 2010 and a professor in UBC’s Division of Sports Medicine. Previous winter games have experienced high injury rates in volunteers, due to factors such as fatigue, lack of sleep and fitness, the repetitive nature of some tasks, and trips and falls that can be caused by snow, ice, errant cables and other hazards. “It was the vision of Dr. Taunton to reduce the risk for adverse events in our volunteers,” Warburton says.
As preparation, Warburton and Bredin travelled to Whistler to evaluate the demands of the various snow-based volunteer activities. These could include shovelling snow with shovels ranging in weight from seven to 44 kilograms; walking up ski hills; dyeing snow on skis with a 16-litre backpack pressure sprayer; raking and packing snow; and other strenuous tasks.
Thousands are making use of the voluntary program, which began in November and continues throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Here’s how it works: volunteers are asked to assess their fitness levels and answer a series of questions regarding their lifestyle behaviours. Based on the outcome, they are assigned one of three tailored program levels and put in contact with qualified exercise physiologists (recent graduates of UBC who have received specialized training). Exercise guidelines are provided online or in-person, and participants can access more than 100 documents and videos to assist with training. Common workouts include running, swimming, brisk walking and strengthening exercises. Experts also offer motivational tips, answer questions and assist with referrals to others, such as registered dietitians.
So far, Warburton says the program has been a big success, with the general fitness levels of participants increasing by about 30 per cent. And if all goes well, this is just the beginning. “The Getting Games Fit program is an important legacy of the 2010 Games,” says Warburton. “I am extremely proud of what we are doing, and envision that this will serve as the model for future Games.”