Habitual Physical Activity as Stress Resiliency in Populations Experiencing High Adversity

In light of extensive research linking stress and disease, and the high rates of reported stress in Canadians, there is a need to identify what people can do to protect their health from the ill effects of stress.

My work to date demonstrates that highly stressed and active individuals have significantly healthier biological and psychological stress responses than those who are highly stressed and inactive. This model suggests that physical activity could be helping to protect active individuals against the disease-promoting influences of stress.

This program seeks to clarify whether this is a cause-and-effect relationship. Is the better health of active individuals merely a result of traits that also cause them to remain active when under stress? Or can highly stressed, inactive people also gain these health advantages through interventions that increase their physical activity levels?

Goals of this program include:

  1. Discovering whether increasing habitual physical activity levels in highly stressed and inactive adults reduces the impact of stress on pathways to physical disease.
  2. Developing novel targets for evidence-based intervention programs tailored to individuals with high levels of life stress

Collaboration with researchers, stakeholders in high-risk populations, and policy makers will support the design of interventions that target biological and psychological stress-reactive pathways years before disease appears.

By focusing on health promotion in high-adversity communities, the ultimate goal is to improve quality of life and to reduce the economic burden on our health care system.