Media Releases

U of T opens one of first mental health and physical activity research centres

February 29, 2016

Toron­to, ON — The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­ul­ty of Kine­si­ol­o­gy and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion has launched the Men­tal Health and Phys­i­cal Activ­i­ty Research Cen­tre (MPARC) — one of the first research facil­i­ties to inte­grate the study of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and men­tal health in Cana­da and inter­na­tion­al­ly.

Opened on Feb­ru­ary 25, this mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary cen­tre will address the enor­mous bur­den of men­tal health issues. Accord­ing to the Cen­tre for Addic­tion and Men­tal Health, one in five Cana­di­an adults will expe­ri­ence a men­tal ill­ness each year.

“Research shows that men­tal health is a seri­ous issue on cam­pus and in the com­mu­ni­ty,” says Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Cather­ine Sabis­ton, one of the centre’s researchers. “We’re com­mit­ted to reduc­ing men­tal health chal­lenges by pro­mot­ing phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and reduc­ing seden­tary behav­iour, and pro­vid­ing long-term solu­tions.”

While phys­i­cal activ­i­ty is one of the most effec­tive ways to improve men­tal health, those deal­ing with men­tal health issues are com­mon­ly the least phys­i­cal­ly active.

“The ben­e­fits of long-term phys­i­cal activ­i­ty are unde­ni­able,” says Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor Kel­ly Arbour-Nic­i­topou­los, also a researcher at the cen­tre. “But the Cana­di­an Phys­i­cal Activ­i­ty Guide­lines might not be real­is­tic for some peo­ple, espe­cial­ly if they have mobil­i­ty issues. Our pro­grams will meet the needs of diverse pop­u­la­tions, includ­ing can­cer sur­vivors and peo­ple with spinal cord injuries.”

To fur­ther meet these needs, the team will study how to incor­po­rate sus­tain­able long-term exer­cise into peo­ples’ lives out­side the lab.

“We want to devel­op pro­grams that will not only work in the lab, but also trans­late to the real world,” says Sabis­ton. “For exam­ple, we’re part­ner­ing with U of T’s Health and Well­ness Cen­tre to help stu­dents exer­cise, set goals, self-mon­i­tor and man­age stress. We want them to enjoy exer­cise and make it part of their lives.”

The cen­tre con­tains sev­en suites where Pro­fes­sors Sabis­ton, Arbour-Nic­i­topou­los, and Guy Faulkn­er will study how exer­cise can improve patients’ qual­i­ty of life. It fea­tures acces­si­ble car­dio­vas­cu­lar and strength train­ing, psy­cho­log­i­cal assess­ment, and data col­lec­tion and analy­sis. One of the suites includes space to devel­op web and app-based tech­nol­o­gy for men­tal health and exer­cise train­ing.

In the past, the team faced space lim­i­ta­tions when col­lab­o­rat­ing with oth­ers, includ­ing the Cen­tre for Addic­tion and Men­tal Health, Hol­land Bloorview Kids Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Hos­pi­tal and Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal. This facil­i­ty will now let them close­ly inter­act with local and inter­na­tion­al part­ners and cre­ate com­pre­hen­sive pro­grams.

“Now that we have this state-of-the-art cen­tre, we can do our own cut­ting edge research and also con­tribute to larg­er mul­ti-site projects,” says Faulkn­er. “Sweat is the best anti­de­pres­sant, and MPARC will be a lead­ing research cen­tre, allow­ing us to dis­cov­er and share knowl­edge about how best to get more peo­ple, more active, more often.”

This facil­i­ty was made pos­si­ble with gen­er­ous sup­port from the Cana­da Foun­da­tion for Inno­va­tion and the Ontario Research Fund.


 Media con­tact:

Katie Bab­cock, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Spe­cial­ist
Fac­ul­ty of Kine­si­ol­o­gy and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–278-6568