Recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic

28 September 2022

Recognizing the importance of recreation activities for the mental and physical health of many participants, it was imperative for Campus & Community Recreation to adapt to public health orders and leverage technology to offer safe options digitally. For University of Alberta staff member Christine Park and recently retired Marianne Howell, virtual fitness classes were a fun and convenient way to stay active while working from home, and provided a continued connection with other members of the university community.

Like many of the changes experienced with the pandemic, the transition was abrupt, but Howell appreciated how quickly CCR adapted to a new reality: “They did an amazing job to launch the virtual classes. They did so promptly, professionally and with good humor as the little “glitches” were worked out.” Virtual classes provided a break in the everyday routine for Park: “online classes... allowed me to keep up my physical fitness as well as give me some purpose and something to look forward to, as many of the COVID, work-from-home days blended together.”

Many participants enjoy group classes because of the camaraderie and support from instructors and other participants - the virtual courses were no different. “Since the classes are live, you have to be ‘accountable’ and attend them” says Park, “you can schedule them into your calendar and it’s something to look forward to.” Even though she never met the class leaders in-person, Howell felt a group connection: “even though I participate remotely, I still feel a part of the class, and feel that over time I have come to ‘know’ the instructors. They have all been great and I enjoy working with them.” Park’s was similarly upbeat and she felt the sense of community: “I looked forward to virtually seeing the instructors, as many knew me by name and were very supportive.”

"Both participants found virtual CCR programming to be a bit of an oasis of calm during turbulent times with positive mental health benefits: “being able to work out from home was an excellent way for me to stay positive and sane throughout a long work-from-home period” says Park. For Howell “the classes have... helped me deal with the changes/stress that resulted from the pandemic,” and she plans to continue as long as they are offered: “given that I am now retired, the classes still give me some connection to the U of A.”