Mental Health & Physical Activity Research Centre (MPARC)

About Us

MPARC is a unique research facility integrating the study of physical activity and mental health. The researchers involved with MPARC are dedicated to developing and evaluating interventions to promote physical activity and mental health among people at risk of inactivity and mental health problems. Examples of populations we work with include: mental health service users, cancer survivors, youth sport participants and people with spinal cord injuries. 

MPARC is committed to developing and testing intervention programs that will not only work in the lab, but also translate to the real world. Through promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour, the MPARC research team hopes to reduce mental health challenges and incorporate sustainable long-term physical activity into the lives of people from diverse populations. MPARC features accessible cardiovascular and strength training, psychological assessment and data collection tools (on-site and field-based), and advanced software for mixed methods analyses. 

Main Research Foci: 

  • Psychosocial predictors of physical activity and sedentary behaviour 
  • Development, evaluation, and dissemination of physical activity interventions across the lifespan 
  • Mental and physical health outcomes associated with physical activity and sedentary behaviours

Research Labs

There are two research labs housed within MPARC.

Health Behaviour and Emotion Lab


MPARC Infrastructure Funding - Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

MPARC's research infrastructure has been funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). 

Current Projects

Main projects using the MPARC infrastructure.

ActiveMatch team

ActiveMatch is both a free online service and a research project that helps women diagnosed with cancer find their close-to-perfect exercise partner or small exercise group. ActiveMatch was designed to help women diagnosed with cancer connect with similar women who are looking for support and guidance to help start, continue or change their exercise routines. Currently, ActiveMatch has members in the Greater Toronto Area with a few members who reside on the East and West coasts of Canada.

As a research project, ActiveMatch is funded by a Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute Innovation Grant. The purpose of the research project is to evaluate ActiveMatch as a service. Currently, two groups and one longitudinal pilot study have been conducted and analyzed publications are forthcoming. For more information, please visit To get involved, e-mail Angela at

MPARC is the Canadian site for the Global Prostate cancer exercise and metabolic health initiative trial. This health initiative is examining the effect of combining a high intensity aerobic and resistance training with psychosocial support in advanced prostate cancer patients. The purpose is to determine high intensity aerobic and resistance training with psychosocial support increases overall survival compared to psychosocial support.

Children and students participating in activities

IFP is an inclusive community-based physical literacy program that aims to foster a passion for physical activity among children and youth across grades 1-12. The goal of IFP is to help children and youth with diverse abilities gain a positive attitude towards physical activity and its benefits, develop the confidence to try new community-wide physical activities and form new friendships, and be motivated to continue future physical activity and set goals to stay active. IFP's community partners include: the Junior Blues Program at the University of Toronto, Variety Village, Abilities Centre, MLSE LaunchPad, Pickering Soccer Club, and Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.

IFP also involves a research component that has been funded through National Bank, Milos Ranoic Foundation, Connaught New Researcher Award (University of Toronto), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund, and Chillin' For Kids. The purpose of this research arm is to pilot the IFP program across a variety of neighbourhoods to determine its feasibility, acceptability, and impact on physical literacy outcomes. For further information on IFP go to

MoveU.HappyU is an individualized six-week program that offers physical activity counselling to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Toronto. Through incorporating motivational tools such as goal setting, plan implementation strategies, stress reduction tactics, and exercise training, the program aims to improve physical activity levels and reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety in inactive to moderately active students. The overarching aim of the program is to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing an exercise program for campus health and well-being. Our program coordinators can be contacted at

To register or for more information please click here.

The purpose of this research project is to evaluate 24-hour movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary activity, and sleep) and mental health outcomes among children and youth with disabilities across Canada. Over the course of 5 years, we will collect data from 1,000 children and youth (aged 4-17 years) related to sport and physical activity participation, screen-time activity, activities of daily living, sleep, depression and anxiety, and perceptions of parental social support for sport and physical activity. Together, these data will provide: (a) the first Canadian population-level data for school-aged children and youth with all types of disabilities regarding rates of physical activity, screen-time behaviours, and achievement of the 24-Hour Movement Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth; (b) establish demographic and mental health profiles of those who meet and do not meet the 24-Hour Movement Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Youth; (c) describe different types of durations for physical activities being undertaken by children and youth with disabilities; and (d) baseline assessment for evaluating programs and policies aimed at supporting the well-being of Canadian children and youth with disabilities. This research is supported through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) as part of a larger initiative called the Canadian Disability Participation Project

The trajectory of youth sport and physical activity involvement peaks at around the age of 13 before drastically declining through adolescence and into young adulthood. Contributors to physical activity participation include self-conscious emotions.

Self-conscious emotions:
• Social physique anxiety, and body-related shame
• Body-related pride
• Guilt, embarrassment, and envy

Given that physical activity settings such as sport, exercise, and physical education place a large emphasis on how the body looks and performs, understanding the role of self-conscious emotions may provide better insight into physical activity motives and behaviour in youth and adolescents.

If you would like to learn more about the role of self-conscious emotions in sport participation, watch the videos below featuring Jenna Gilchrist’s research; a doctoral student in the Health Behaviour and Emotion lab.

Self Compassion Protects Against Negative Emotion in Sport

Body Image in Sport

Founded by Jack Scholz in 1982, S.M.I.L.E. is an innovative 12-week academic-based program that is intended to provide children and youth with varying ability levels a unique opportunity to participate in group-based physical activity programming. Each child is paired one-to-one with a Master of Professional Kinesiology (MPK) student to receive adapted programming for fundamental movement skill development. The evaluation of the S.M.I.L.E. program entails examining changes in fundamental movement skills of the child and youth participants enrolled in the program, as well as exploring the program experiences of the children and their parents/caregivers. 


Catherine Sabiston

Catherine Sabiston

Dr. Catherine Sabiston is the executive director of MPARC. She is a full professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Mental Health. 

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Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos

Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos

Dr. Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos is a director of MPARC. She is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and an adjunct scientist at Bloorview Research Institute. 

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John Cairney

Guy Faulkner

Daniel Santa Mina