Health/Fitness Research Initiatives

Through psychosocial, psychological, physiological, epidemiological, cognitive, biomechanical, and organizational research, we promote individual and population health and injury prevention.

Increasing the awareness and consumption of fruit and vegetables in the northern regions of Ontario (geographically remote)


The Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program (NFVP), as funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, began in 2006-07 in one Northern Ontario public health region and has since expanded to 6 other regions due to increases in government funding and the success of the initial site. The NFVP runs January – June (20 weeks) in which participating schools receive weekly deliveries of 2 servings per student of primarily Ontario-grown fruit and vegetables from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. Since 2012, our researchers have evaluated this program annually among >10,000 students in grades 5-8. Data suggest that preferences for the fruit and vegetables have increased over time, and in each year, those with higher preferences for fruit and vegetables consume more in their daily intake. Although school provision is only one factor that may influence fruit and vegetable intake, data suggest that schools should continue to offer a wide variety of fruit and vegetables within school snack or meal programs to increase exposure and preferences.

Dr. Sarah Woodruff

Improving the treatment and management of Hypertension (HTN)


Our researchers pioneered proof-of-concept evidence for isometric handgrip (IHG) training, which is now listed as one of the “Best Proven Non-pharmacological Interventions for Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension” in international guidelines. Deemed a global health crisis by the World Health Organization, HTN (high blood pressure - BP) is the leading global risk factor for death and disability. Despite well-publicized pharmacotherapy, dietary and aerobic exercise-based guidelines for the treatment of HTN, many people around the world do not have their high BP adequately controlled. Thus, implementing time- and cost-efficient therapies, such as IHG training, that lower and maintain BP to within a healthy range is of tremendous public health importance. Together, our researchers and community partners continue to advance HTN treatment options and IHG training, with a global emphasis.

Dr. Cheri McGowan

Dr. Kevin Milne

Dr. Paula
van Wyk

Identifying integrative mechanisms of cerebrovascular function by delineating external factors contributing to its alteration


Cerebrovascular disease is the third leading cause of death in Canada. The incidence of vascular dementia associated with cerebrovascular disease is steadily increasing. To help combat this growing health burden, our research is providing tangible knowledge on the factors and mechanisms that can hinder or help cerebrovascular related morbidity and mortality. For example, nearly half of the adult population in North America do not get enough sleep, which is a major factor in driving cerebrovascular dysfunction. Our research will collectively provide much needed mechanistic insight to the growing incidences of cerebrovascular related health complications, such as that caused by poor sleep. Our research will develop strategies to help foster a lifespan free of cerebrovascular morbidity.

Dr. Anthony Bain

Exploring the relationship between sex, gender, and hormones on human performance, health, and disease


Our researchers investigate the impact of sex and endogenous sex hormones by examining their changes across the lifespan, and the behavioural and physiological systems relevant to exercise and health that may or may not be modified by various factors.
Women are underrepresented in research although biological sex and the sex hormones are potent modifiers of several physiological systems within the human body. While general responses to exercise and disease may be similar between men and women, quite often they are different (e.g. smaller maximal oxygen consumption or increased autoimmune disease rates in women). However, these differences are often not simply biological; environmental pressures may also impact behavioral and physiological traits manifesting in observed sex differences (e.g. lower participation rate of girls in sports). Our research helps dispel sex differences myths and fosters knowledge of sex differences that improve health and exercise prescription to both men and women.

Dr. Cheri McGowan

Dr. Kevin Milne

Understanding the regulation of muscle mass and why muscle wasting occurs in disease states


Once thought to act only as a means of producing physical force, muscles are now appreciated as an important metabolic regulator and endocrine organ. Thus, it is critical to understand the factors that regulate muscle growth, development, and maintenance, as well as the factors involved in the loss of muscle mass. In disease states such as diabetes and cancer, as well as with aging, advanced loss of muscle (i.e., muscle wasting) occurs, a condition that is not easily reversed through typical diet and exercise. Our researchers study the regulation of muscle wasting in order to develop innovative therapies.

Dr. Matthew Krause

Improving the mental health of the University of Windsor student body


Numerous reports show a positive association between physical activity and mental health. The UWorkItOut UWin is a research-based, supervised exercise program that educates and provides an alternative means by which to service the growing number of university students experiencing mental health issues. Working with the Student Counselling Centre, we create a stronger mental health support system for students. In addition, we also provide counselling to our University student athletes with the goal of improving their psychological well-being.

Prof. Chad Sutherland

Dr. Todd Loughead

Dr. Krista Chandler

Sandra Ondracka

Enhancing the understanding of processes underlying motor control and learning


Researchers in our faculty investigate how goal-directed movements are learned and controlled. We focus on understanding cognitive and sensorimotor factors underlying these processes, and changes that occur throughout the life course (development and aging). An important aspect of health is understanding how different factors (e.g., environment, disease) may impact how we perform various functions throughout our daily lives to performing most effectively in contexts of sport and physical activity. We improve health modalities by understanding how tasks are learned, and re-learned, throughout the lifespan for various populations. Our research enhances the understanding of similarities and differences among individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder) and specialized training (e.g., athletes).

Dr. Sara Schroun-Benson

Determining the biomechanical response of tissues of the human body to impacts and the mechanisms associated with impact-induced injury


Our researchers advance areas related to health by investigating how the body responds to impact-induced injury (e.g., arresting a fall using outstretched hands, running and jumping, and tackling in football). The soft (fat, muscle, skin) and rigid (bone) tissues of the human body interact to protect the body from potentially injurious forces that are applied to the upper extremities, lower extremities, and the head. We utilize biomechanical instrumentation to document the motion of the soft tissues of body segments and thus, enhance the understanding of the role that soft tissues have in injury prevention. In addition, by establishing a method that enables soft and rigid tissue masses to be determined in living men and women across a range of ages using anthropometric measures, we have facilitated the development of biomechanical models with increased anatomical biofidelity. Our research has focused on such areas as 1) quantifying helmet kinematics of youth football players during head impacts, with the overall goal of improving impact-related health outcomes through helmet design and player training; and 2) quantifying drummers’ exposures to upper limb vibration while playing, with the goal of developing vibration exposure reduction strategies (e.g., specialized drum sticks, wraps, etc.) to minimize the risk of related injuries.

Dr. Nadia Azar

Dr. Dave Andrews

Developing effective early identification and prevention strategies to reduce the prevalence and burden of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) in drummers


Our researchers engage in activities that document the prevalence and patterns of PRMDs, investigate the playing-related and lifestyle characteristics that increase or minimize risk, and quantify physical exertion parameters during live performances. Playing the drums is a physically demanding task, and as with any other strenuous occupational or athletic endeavour, drummers may be at risk of sustaining PRMDs due to exposure to various injury risk factors (e.g., high forces and repetition, upper limb vibration, static and/or awkward postures, etc.). We also engage in popular and social media to raise drummers’ awareness of the importance of training their bodies for the demands of their profession.

Dr. Nadia Azar

Supporting healthy living of people with an intellectual disability (ID) through physical activity


Our researchers in the Adapted Physical Exercise Research Group (APEX) create and evaluate programs that improve fitness and motor skills of adults with ID, while teaching proper exercise techniques and gym etiquette. APEX programming has been positively received by participants and support staff – participants have also reported increased confidence to engage in an active lifestyle, resulting in continued exercise engagement. The impact of this program is extended and sustained through knowledge transferred by way of an APEX manual, website, workshops/webinars, lay-based videos, and scholarly publications. The program also highlights a model of a sustained community-based health program for people with an intellectual disability.

Dr. Nadia Azar

Dr. Sean Horton

Prof. Chad Sutherland