What is FitSpirit?
FitSpirit is non-profit organization based in Quebec whose mission is getting teenage girls to stay active for life. Rolled out as an extracurricular activity, FitSpirit supports high schools in developing a varied program of physical activities that corresponds to the needs and preferences of girls between the ages of 12 and 17. FitSpirit partner schools pay annual membership fees that are kept as low as possible to gain access to the wide variety of services shown here: fitspirit.ca/schools

In other words, FitSpirit is the high school women's non-competitive multi-sport team. In 2022, FitSpirit is celebrating its 15th year! View this video that shows 15 years of collaboration with high schools. 

Why does FitSpirit target girls between the ages of 12 and 17 years specifically?
Research shows there is a gap in the amount of physical activity between boys and girls. Girls are less active compared to their male counterparts by the end of childhood and the gap widens through adolescence. Adolescence is a period in which the  needs and interests of girls are particular. FitSpirit has decided to focus its expertise on this pivotal period, to give girls between the ages of 12 and 17 tools, resources, and messages specifically intended for them to help reverse this trend.

Why is the FitSpirit approach rolled out in schools?
School is the preferred environment to roll out a program like FitSpirit. Firstly, our presence in schools lets us reach all teenage girls regardless of their level of interest in sports or physical activity, seeing as 100% of them attend school. We can also count on the help of school staff members, who are pedagogical experts and are thus important allies to help us change the experience teenage girls have with physical activity.

Are FitSpirit activities offered in elementary schools?
No, FitSpirit activities are exclusive to girls between the ages of 12 and 17. To conserve the novelty aspect, which is of the utmost importance for teenage girls, giving girls access to FitSpirit activities in elementary school might diminish their interest in the program come high school. However, we encourage educators who work with girls of all ages to help tackle the problem and make physical activity fun and enticing, as the issue of lack of participation can emerge during elementary school and even begin to take shape in early childhood.

Isn’t it too late to take action by the time girls are teenagers?
It’s never too late to discover or rediscover the fun you can have being physically active. Adolescence is a key period of time during which girls look to develop meaningful social relationships. It is therefore a perfect time to provide them with quality experiences in sport, physical activity, and  outdoor activities in a caring environment. These experiences can leave a lasting impression on girls and encourage them to stay active for life.

Why offer this program exclusively to girls?
From the age of nine, girls are less physically active than boys and the gap widens over the course of adolescence (the Québec Health Survey of High School Students reveals that girls, at 13%, are less likely than boys, at 22%, to be physically active in their spare time). Many factors specific to girls prevent them from being more active, including activities that don’t suit their preferences, how others may perceive them, physical changes during puberty, performance anxiety and skill level, just to name a few. What’s more, as teenagers, girls become more enthusiastic about sports and physical activity when they are together. We give them access to this “for girls only” safe space at a key point in their lives to allow them  to live memorable experiences that contribute to the improvement of sense of personal efficiency and their self-esteem thus encouraging them to be active for life.  

FitSpirit chose to address this specific issue and develop its expertise therein since its beginnings in 2007 to offer teenage girls a space to practice physical activity, sport and outdoor activities in an environment specially designed for them. Having said that, boys and non-binary youths who wish to participate in a FitSpirit activity can join in, assuming the group is still able to practice the principles that have made our program so successful since its beginnings. Such a decision is left in the capable hands of School Leaders. 

How does FitSpirit promote inclusiveness in its activities at school?
FitSpirit encourages inclusion in its activities, regardless of body types, skill or fitness levels, ethnic groups, religious beliefs, disabilities, gender identities or sexual orientations. While respecting the spirit in which FitSpirit built its program, School Leaders are free to welcome any student who wishes to participate (see previous point for additional details regarding gender/identity of participants).

Is there a way to get a better idea of how FitSpirit operates within a school?
You can watch these video testimonials of School Leaders, showing how FitSpirit has taken shape in their respective schools over time:

How does FitSpirit reduce the amount of obstacles and increase participation?
At FitSpirit, physical activity is presented in a way that all girls, even those that are not into sports, have fun. A physically active lifestyle is encouraged as well as a healthy relationship with food and meals. Positive language that focuses on what our bodies are capable of, never implying a  wish to transform one’s appearance through physical activity, is always used. Non-competitive activities are also front and centre. The focus is on having fun while staying active with friends, not on the stopwatch or on individual performance. Everyone chooses their own personal goals that best suit their needs.

Annual training activities, to promote best practices and to network, are offered to all members of the FitSpirit community (Coordinators, School Leaders, Ambassadors, Student-Leaders). 

How are FitSpirit activities made available in underserved communities?
FitSpirit offers its long list of services to partner schools following payment of a $300/year fee, without limiting the number of participants thus making it an affordable activity (expenses eligible under measure 15028 of the ministère de l’éducation du Québec for public schools). In addition to promotional items sent to registrants at no additional cost, individual participants benefit from the entirety of the FitSpirit approach including quality resources in regards to physical activity, memorable events and access to different role models who help create positive experiences outdoors, playing sports and staying physically active. Additionally, thanks to our generous partners, FitSpirit gifts sports equipment to schools in underserved communities, year in, year out.

What is the impact of the FitSpirit approach?
FitSpirit rigorously evaluates its approach in collaboration with a team of researchers out of the University of Montreal and other Canadian universities. The results of the evaluation process will be revealed in 2022-23. If you have specific needs or questions regarding the impact of FitSpirit, do not hesitate to contact Geneviève Leduc, Senior Advisor of Programs.  

Here are some key takeaways so far:

  • Participation in FitSpirit seems to help improve the lifestyles of teenage girls, particularly in those who did not follow the physical activity recommendations prior to their registration in the program. In fact, the most significant changes between the start and end of the school year were noted in participants that did not meet Canadian recommendations for physical activity at the start of the year. For example,  the group of participants that was the least active at the start of the year showed the  most improvement in its practice of physical activity.
  • More than half of School Leaders that have rolled out FitSpirit noted an improvement in the level of engagement in participants (54%), of their self-confidence (54%), of their demeanour (56%) and of their skill level (52%) during physical education classes.

For additional results, please consult the following documents:

COVID-19 Information for Partner Schools in Quebec
Please make sure to consult the Government of Quebec website for resources and accurate, up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic such as: 

FitSpirit ambassadors who will visit Partner schools during the year will respect public health guidelines as well as each visited school’s specific procedures.

I am a parent; how do I get my daughter's school to become a FitSpirit partner?

First of all, congratulations for wanting to encourage your daughter to be more active and thank you for your interest in FitSpirit!

The first thing to do would be to check with the school administration to see if FitSpirit is already offered there. If not, you can share with them this document that outlines what FitSpirit is at a glance and the link to [email protected]. If you don't have a contact with the principal, it could be the recreation director, a physical education teacher, or a teacher of choice in another subject. Explain that Fillactive is a non-competitive high school womens' multi-sport team. It's an extracurricular activity designed specifically for girls aged 12 to 17, to introduce physical activity and sports in a different way to girls who may not see themselves on regular sports teams.

If your daughter's school is interested, let us know at [email protected] and we will put the person in charge in touch with the coordinator in your area, who will be able to support her in the registration process and throughout the school year!