Leveraging trauma- and violence-informed physical activity to support individuals who have experienced family violence: A community-based participatory approach  


Physical activity has been shown to improve mental health and decrease depression, anxiety and other challenges connected to PTSD. Despite the widely accepted benefits of physical activity for populations with experiences of trauma, inequities in access and uptake of physical activity remain. Barriers to physical activity are especially complicated for self-identified women who have experienced or are experiencing multiple marginalizing circumstances (e.g., socio-economic inequity, domestic and structural violence, histories of trauma, family violence, substance abuse, or racism).

Barriers to physical activity can include:

  • Appropriateness of programming
  • Perceived personal and community safety
  • Availability of childcare/sibling care
  • Access to infrastructure (recreational facilities, bike lanes, etc.)
  • Resources required to participate in physical activity, such as clothing, shoes, or equipment
  • Transportation to and from programming

Trauma- and violence-informed physical activity (TVIPA) aims to reduce the number of barriers women face to accessing physical activity. TVIPA was adapted from trauma- and violence-informed care (TVIC) and offers an alternative to conventional physical activity programming that often does not account for social and structural inequities, interpersonal violence, or family violence. TVIPA calls for physical activity providers to understand and account for intersecting effects of systemic, structural, interpersonal, gender-based, domestic, sexual and family violence. 

TVIPA has adopted the four key tenets from TVIC: 

  • Trauma-awareness 
  • Safety and trustworthiness 
  • Opportunity for choice collaboration and connection 
  • A strengths-based and capacity building approach 

Women and children who experience(d) family violence may be a population who can reap the benefits of the physical, social, emotional and mental health outcomes afforded by structured TVIPA interventions.


The overall goal of this project to leverage TVIPA to support self-identified women and children who have experienced or are experiencing family violence through community-based participatory projects and research. While working collaboratively with community partners in three sites (Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver) we will provide resources to organizations interested in delivering TVIPA family violence prevention programming.

The aim is to concurrently address community identified barriers to physical activity and develop practical tools for organizations to enhance programs and experiences for women. 


1. Partner and collaborate with community to inform the development of location-specific TVIPA programming

  • Form a community advisory board
  • Conduct environmental scans in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver
  • Conduct preliminary interviews and focus groups with service providers and community members at each site

2. Build the capacity of community organizations to deliver TVIPA programs

3. Develop and measure the impact of community developed physical activity and wellness interventions across geographically and culturally diverse sites (Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver)

  • In partnership with the CAB, co-create site-specific TVIPA programming at and with each parter organization (St. Mary’s Home, Ottawa; Ottawa Community Housing Foundation (RecLink), Ottawa; MLSE LaunchPad, Toronto; and YWCA Crabtree Corner, Vancouver)
  • Measure and evaluate community-developed programming in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver

4. Demonstrate the importance of site- and community-specific programming using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and participatory mapping. Develop participatory maps for each community reflecting spaces to access physical activity

5. Increase access and improve awareness of TVIPA to support new leaders in the field