Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ensuring Cultural Competence and Sensitivity in Exercise Centers

Multicultural competencies increase the ability to effectively communicate and interact with others (Gill and Williams, 2008). As an employee of an exercise and fitness center, it is important to realize that every person who comes in to exercise is different and requires individual attention. Exercise programs need to be written specifically, and so does the process of interacting with the client. Both gender and cultural differences can pose a problem, and solutions must be found to make the client feel included and empowered. Cultural competence is defined by Nunez (2000) as: “a set of academic and interpersonal skills that allow individuals to increase their understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and similarities” (p. 72). Thus, it is important as a professional to improve cultural competence, and also increase the facilities competence. Not showing a positive level of competence to personal and cultural norms in a public setting will spell out failure as a professional and also for the exercise facility.

Cultural competence is not something that is accomplished immediately, but takes time and effort to achieve a greater awareness and ability to effectively deal with clients of all cultural domains. Sue (2001) insists that for a professional to be competent in cultural beliefs, they must become fluent in individual, group and universal aspects. Each area has its own unique structure that all must be acknowledged to be successful. Gill and Williams (2008) agree with Sue and in the physical activity domain, professionals are an integral part of prescribing and effectively managing programs for clients. Gender, age, cultural beliefs and health and body perceptions all have equal weight when dealing with society as a whole. It is important for professionals to have education and experience in all levels to ensure proper action is taken when dealing with clients. Accommodation is an essential part of providing knowledge, oversight and care to clients or patients as a professional (Paasche-Orlow, 2004). Not having the ability to adapt too many different cultures, beliefs and ways of life significantly decreases the ability to run an effective business, and promote healthy living. Being able to associate with all cultures and giving clients a sense of power and inclusion, with decision making, is essential to being a true professional and offering quality service. In the next section, I will discuss methods for developing cultural sensitivity and competence.

The first step to develop multicultural competency in an exercise facility will be to specifically look at the different cultures involved with membership. Observing and interacting with people who use the facility is the first step. Next, it will be important to note what background these clients come from. Researching the cultural beliefs via the internet and anthropology books will give a better insight to specific ways of life. Using the “RESPECTFUL” model produced by D’Andrea and Daniels located in Gill and Williams (2008), is a good start to becoming comfortable with at least 10 aspects of cultural differences. Opening exercise programs and services up to all ages, races, and ability levels is essential. Moving up the cultural competency continuum will take some time, but with careful planning and action taking, it should not be hard to achieve the proficiency level.

As a professional in an exercise facility setting, the company itself must take positive steps to become more culturally competent. The first step will be the same as improving individual competency, with observing all clientele and knowing what backgrounds the clients come from. Offering classes and instruction programs that will best suit the cultural abilities and beliefs of all clients is important. Cheap after school programs to help low income families will help keep these kids out of trouble and also live an active and healthy lifestyle. Staff guidelines need to be produced to ensure that all staff knows certain information and policies to help deal with all types of cultural differences. It should be noted in the staff guidelines that stereotypes are not acceptable and no staff will be allowed to have bias towards any of the cultures. All staff members should take mare in strategic planning meetings to help plan programs that will allow equal access for all participants. Program materials should be created and available to all genders, ages and ability levels to make sure that all clients will feel empowered and included in all types of activities. As an exercise facility, no family or individual should be excluded from participating in any of the activities offered.

Cultures differ not only by gender or location, but also by age, sexual orientation, language, physical and mental abilities. As a professional in the exercise world, it is important to recognize all of these differences that may be found within clients at an exercise facility. Successfully addressing these clients in the manner that will be suit their beliefs and abilities will not only make the exercise specialist look competent, but can also increase interpersonal relationships and professional appearance. Cultural competence will be achieved when understanding of different cultures occurs, and embraces the idea of pluralism, making accommodations based on beliefs and abilities (Paasche-Orlow, 2004). As a professional company, it is essential to have policies and standards that accommodate for all different culture types and beliefs. Individual employee actions only go so far, and for a business to be successful, all employees must be educated and held to the same standards. All clients must feel a sense of power and inclusion into decision making. Cultural competency is a subject that needs specific attention as more and more cultures are becoming intertwined in society.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Paasche-Orlow, M. (2010). The ethics of cultural competence. Academic Medicine, 79(4), 347-350.

Nunez, A. (2000). Transforming cultural competence into cross-cultural efficacy in women’s health education. Academic Medicine, 75(11), 1071-1080.

Sue, D. W. (2001). Multidimensional facets of cultural competence. The Counseling Psychologist, 29(6), 790-821.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Workout together! It is better psychologically and physically!

Participation in regular exercise is one of, if not the most beneficial action to prevent chronic injuries and disease in older populations (Brassington, Atienza, Perczek, DiLorenzo & King, 2002). Adherence to exercise programs has often been a problem, and ways to increase adherence need to be researched. Social support is one way in which adherence to exercise can be accomplished in elderly populations. There are different strategies that can be used to use social support, and the most effective ways should be researched. It is important that social support is used by both exercise instructors and group members. The purpose of this paper will be to look at reasons for social support and strategies that should be used to increase exercise participation in group fitness programs for the elderly.

Elderly individuals are at increased risk for health problems, but social support can enhance life by increasing both physical and mental health. Gill and Williams (2008) define social support as “support of others” (p.251). Emotional, informational and tangible support, are all examples of ways in which instructors and group members help each other (Gill and Williams, 2008). Showing someone that you care about their choices or effort is important for fostering improvements in motivation and self-confidence. When commencing an exercise program or activity, society looks at social support for approval (Courneya, Plotnikoff, Hotz, & Birkett, 2000). The assistance that one receives from others via social support will yield a more positive experience for both the individual and group. It should be noted that social support will lead to increase cohesion between individuals and the group, which will also lead to increase team building and group dynamic skills. Increased cohesion leads to greater motivation, communication, task orientation and exercise adherence. Social support is also shown to have a large influence on reducing stress (Gill & Williams, 2008). In the exercise setting, the elderly individuals will increase their self-confidence, allowing for greater fitness gains and overall physical health. Competing in group exercise programs will also increase social networking and friend making. It is always better mentally to complete workouts in a group rather than individually.

In order to promote social support in an exercise program for elderly individuals, it will be important to foster strategies both as an instructor and between group members. As a group instructor it will be extremely important to show the individuals that they are welcome and respected when entering the exercise setting. Motivational signs with quotes and messages will help to increase positive attitude before exercise even begins. As the participants are known to be in good shape, it will not be as important to motivate for exercise improvement, as much as it will be to keep the participants coming back. Offering incentives to the person who has the best attendance, with gift certificates to local restaurants or sporting events will help. Changing the types of activities that the program offers will help to prevent boredom, and having the participants have a democratic input on possible activities should be used. As the instructor, you can only do so much, with other support options needing to come from others involved with the program.

Promoting social support between program participants is the next key step to an effective exercise program. The usage of this exercise program is for group dynamics, but there will be times for individuals to complete workouts and testing individually in front of the group. This will allow the group a chance to show support for their exercise partners. Differing models of support according to Gill and Williams (2008) include: listening, emotional, task appreciation, task challenge, tangible assistance and personal assistance. Allowing the group to acknowledge personal effort, give feedback and challenge each other to bigger and better accomplishments will help keep motivation levels high. Team competitions will be used to foster group cohesion and healthy social support aspects. A mock weight lifting meet will be used as a friendly competition. Group support will be a great addition to instructor support, and both will increase desire and exercise capabilities.

The major purpose of this paper was to explain the process of social support and come up with specific goals to help increase social support within an elderly exercise program. “Perceived social support is the key contributor to health and well-being” (Gill & Williams, 2008, p. 252). Using social support as an instructor and between program participants has beneficial effects on motivation and performance. Even though the participants are in good physical health, the added support may help achieve greater task orientation and a sense of happiness. The goal is to keep the participants both looking forward to and wanting to come back. If these exercisers know they have good friends and companions to help achieve personal goals, the program will be a success.

Barrera, M. (1986). Distinctions between social support concepts, measures, and models. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(4), 413-445.

Courneya, K. S., Plotnikoff, R. C., Hotz, S. B., & Birkett, N. J. (2000). Social support and the theory of planned behavior in the exercise domain. American Journal of Healthy Behavior, 24(4), 300-308.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.