Health Behaviour and Emotion Lab


The Health Behaviour and Emotion lab is a multidisciplinary research environment focusing on psychosocial factors in physical activity and sport contexts. As such, our research foci involve the influence of motivation, self-conscious emotions (pride, shame, guilt, envy and embarrassment), stress, affect, and social support as it relates to physical activity, youth and adolescent sport involvement, and emotional wellbeing.

The aim of our research is to develop a broader understanding of physical activity behaviour across the lifespan in diverse clinical and community-based populations, including those with mental health concerns, adolescents and youth, and cancer survivors. Research suggests that perceptions of competence and the physical self, social support, and physical activities that are novel with opportunities for choice greatly influence physical activity motives and behaviour. With a broader understanding of how such psychosocial factors influence health behaviour, we hope to inform physical activity interventions and reduce the psychological and physical health risks associated with inactivity. 

Examples of some of the research foci explored in our lab include: 

  • Identifying and exploring body-related self-conscious emotions and associations to health and well-being
  • Lifestyle physical activity and emotional indicators of well-being in breast cancer survivors
  • Motivational correlates and health outcomes of physical activity and sedentary behaviour 

Areas of focus in the Health Behaviour and Emotion Lab: 

  • Exercise and health psychology 
  • Mental health 
  • Body image
  • Oncology
  • Physical activity intervention 
  • Physical activity measurement 

Meet the Health Behaviour and Emotion Team


Catherine Sabiston

Dr. Catherine M. Sabiston is a professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Toronto and holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Physical Activity and Mental Health. Her research primarily focuses on strategies to improve physical activity, and reduce sedentary behavior, among individuals across the lifespan and how physical activity relates to mental health. Dr. Sabiston has over 160 peer reviewed articles, and over 300 conference presentations and community public health talks. She has received numerous career awards for her work in sport, exercise, and health psychology and has held more than $19 million in funding to conduct her research.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

Jenna Smith-Turchyn





Jenna Smith-Turchyn is a physiotherapist and holds a PhD in Rehabilitation Science from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a CIHR-funded post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto. She is also affiliated with the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster. Her research focuses on the use of exercise and physical activity to manage common side effects of cancer treatments, with a focus on implementation science. Her post-doctoral research program focuses on involving hard to reach populations in exercise oncology and cancer rehabilitation. She is also interested in multi-morbidity and the effects of multi-morbidity on functional outcomes for individuals with cancer.

Please contact Jenna directly if you have any questions or require further information about her research:

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Ross Murray





Ross completed his PhD at the University of Stirling and currently works as a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Sabiston. During his PhD, he studied group dynamics in a performance context. Specifically, he focused on athletes' attributions for team performance and social identity. He is currently researching the consequences and antecedents of team sport participation during adolescence with an interest in psychosocial factors that predict team sport participation in youth and young adulthood. He is also interested in how the team context that can impact individual and team level performance. Ross can be reached at or via twitter @RossMurray91


Saeko Ikai-Tani





Saeko (M.D., Ph.D.) works under the supervision of Professor Sabiston as a postdoctoral fellow. She completed a Ph.D. in medicine from Keio University in Japan. She researches in general psychiatry, particularly the effects of yoga therapy as an additional treatment for patients with severe mental illness. 

To learn more about her research, please see her ResearchGate.

She can be reached by e-mail at

Scott Adams





Dr. Scott Adams is a research fellow at the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, under the supervision of Drs. Sabiston and Santa Mina. Scott was the senior Exercise Physiologist of the Rehabilitation & Exercise Oncology Program and the McGill Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program at the Jewish General Hospital (2008-2013; Montreal, QC). He completed his PhD with Dr. Kerry Courneya in the Behavioural Medicine Laboratory at the University of Alberta (2017; Edmonton, AB) and a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Lee Jones at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2018; New York, NY). Dr. Adams’ research focuses on developing targeted exercise interventions to optimize survival and prevent / treat the adverse effects of cancer therapies on cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, with a particular focus on adolescent and young adult cancer survivors.

Please do not hesitate to contact Scott directly should you have questions or to explore potential collaborations:



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Doctoral Students

Garcia Ashdown-Franks

Garcia is a third-year PhD candidate under the supervision of Dr. Sabiston. She completed her Bachelor's of Kinesiology (Hon) and her MSc in Exercise Sciences at the University of Toronto. Garcia's research interests center around physical activity, mental health, and stigma. She is also jointly affiliated with the Department of Psychological Medicine at King's College London, under the supervision of Dr. Brendon Stubbs. For more information, Garcia can be contacted at



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Kristen Lucibello





Kristen is a third-year PhD candidate working under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Sabiston. Kristen completed her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and her Master of Science in Kinesiology, at McMaster University. Kristen's research program examines how weight stigma negatively influences body image and physical activity in higher-weight adolescents. Kristen’s research interests are rooted in weight-inclusivity and social justice, by advocating for body diversity and acceptance, prioritizing health behaviours over weight, and recognizing higher-weight individuals experience inequity in various life domains due to their weight status. For more information, Kristen can be contacted directly by email at or on Twitter @krislucibello


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Madison Vani





Madison is a fourth-year PhD Candidate, working under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Sabiston. She completed her BA(Hon) in Psychology at Brock University and her MSc in Exercise Sciences at the University of Toronto. Madison’s research interests center around body image and movement (physical activity, sport, and exercise), focusing predominantly on adolescent sport participants and adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. 

For more information, Madison can be contacted at


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David Brown






David Brown is a first year PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Sabiston. David completed his BA (honours) in Psychology at Brock University and his MSc in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University.  David’s research interests involve investigating the role of body image in various contexts, focusing specifically on the impact of body image concerns on sport and exercise participation, psychophysiology, and health. 

For more information, David can be reached at


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Research Analysts

Sonia Jain





Sonia is a Research Analyst under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Sabiston. She received a Masters in Professional Kinesiology from the University of Toronto and holds certifications in strength and conditioning, health coaching and nutrition. Sonia has assisted in research projects and publications related to exercise and mental health as well as sport participation among adolescent females. She has also been a trainer and researcher for the MoveU.HappyU program for two years and facilitated the program from 2019-2020. Sonia will be continuing her advocacy in mental health by pursuing a graduate degree in Social Work at Columbia University in the upcoming year. You can reach out to her at:

Alyona Koulanova





Alyona is a Research Analyst in the Health Behaviour and Emotion Lab. She completed her Masters in Exercise Science with Dr. Catherine Sabiston in 2019, along with a Collaborative Specialization in Public Health Policy at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Alyona continues to work on research projects and publications related to improving the mental health and wellness of adolescents and young adults. With a synergistic perspective of individual-level behaviour change and systems-level change, Alyona enjoys seeking out projects in program evaluation, knowledge translation, and applied research. You can reach Alyona via email at




Former Trainees of the Health Behaviour and Emotion LAb

Anika Petrella, PhD. student, University of Toronto (2015-2019). Title of dissertation: The Ball’s in Our Court: The development of a sport-based supportive care program for testicular cancer survivors.

Alyona Koulanova, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2017-2019). Title of thesis: Evaluating Team Unbreakable: A running program to improve adolescent mental health. 

Amy Nesbitt, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2017-2018). Title of thesis: Global or body-related self-conscious emotions: What matters most for mental health?

Douglas Rosa, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2016-2018). Title of thesis: Assessing physical activity, mental health, and stress among international students at the University of Toronto.

David Di Fonzo, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2015-2017). Title of thesis: Adiposity, aerobic fitness and depressive symptomology in children at risk for obesity. 

Jennifer Gilchrist, PhD. student, University of Toronto (2013-2016). Title of dissertation: Make yourself proud: An investigation of experienced and anticipated pride in physical activity contexts.

Angela Fong, PhD. student, University of Toronto (2013-2016). Title of dissertation: Mind the (knowledge-to-action) gap: Exploring factors that affect physical activity in breast cancer survivors.

Eva Pila, PhD. student, University of Toronto (2013-2016). Title of dissertation: Weighing in: Psychological outcomes associated with weight changes among women treated for breast cancer. MA student, University of Toronto (2012-2013), McGill University (2011-2012). Title of thesis: Body-related envy in young women.

Holly Howe, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2014-2016). Area of interest: women’s health, weight training, mental illness.

Jason Lacombe, MSc. student, University of Toronto (2013-2015). Title of thesis: Sedentary behaviour profiles and links to depression among women with breast cancer.

Tanya Scarapicchia, PhD. student, University of Toronto (2012-2015), McGill University (2011-2012). MA student, McGill University (2010-2012). Area of interest: Social contagion, physical activity motivation, weight status. 

Gina Pinsonnault Bilodeau, MA. student, University of Toronto (2012-2014), McGill University (2011-2012). Title of thesis: Exploring weight and health communication in the family environment.

Samantha Taran, MA. student, McGill University (2012-2014). Title of thesis: Cognitive function among Master’s athletes.

Andree Castonguay, PhD. student, McGill University (2008-2013). Title of dissertation: Development and evaluation of scales to assess body-related self-conscious emotions.

Natalia Bessette, PhD. student, McGill University (2010-2012). Area of interest: physical activity, emotional health, breast cancer.

Jennifer Brunet, PhD. student, McGill University (2007-2011). Title of dissertation: Self-presentation among breast cancer survivors: Implications for physical activity behaviour. MA. student, McGill University (2005-2007). Title of thesis: Social physique anxiety and physical activity and sedentary behaviours: A self-determination theory perspective.

Erin O’Loughlin, MA. student, McGill University (2009-2011). Title of thesis: Investigating the relationships among depression and anxiety symptoms, self-esteem and physical activity in women treated for breast cancer: A pilot study comparing two physical activity interventions.

Kara Egelton, MA. student, McGill University (2009-2011). Title of thesis: Women’s body image challenges across the lifespan. 

Bianca Segatto, MA. student, McGill University (2008-2010). Title of thesis: Exploring relationships between basic psychological need satisfaction, motivation, and physical activity among transplant recipients. 

Patricia-Ann Crombie, MA. student, McGill University (2007-2009). Non-thesis paper: Reducing social physique anxiety in physical education. 

Caitlin Love, MA. student, McGill University (2007-2009). Title of thesis: Examining the path to psychological growth among young adult cancer survivors. 

Hailey Bannack, MA. student (Sport Psychology), McGill University (2007-2009). Title of thesis: Autonomy-supportive coaching behaviours and links to self-determined motivation in Paralympics athletes. Co-Supervision. 

Kristina Hassell, MA. student, McGill University (2005-2007). Title of thesis: Exploring coaches, parents, and peer influences on self-determined motivation among elite youth athletes.