Lifestyle Research Team

Lifestyle Research Team

The Lifestyle Research Team, under the direction Dr. Robert Petrella (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Dawn Gill (Research Manager & Scientist), focuses on community-based studies of lifestyle interventions for chronic disease prevention, management and control. This research is dedicated to furthering multi- and inter-disciplinary research on aging, physical activity, lifestyle management, chronic diseases, and innovative technologies to improve the quality of life of Canadians across their lifespan. Dr. Robert Petrella is currently the Head (Chair) of the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, while maintaining this active research program within the Centre for Studies in Family Medicine at Western University (as Professor Emeritus). 


Hockey Fans in Training® 

Hockey Fans In Training (Hockey FIT): A Pragmatic Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial to Improve Men’s Health through the Power of Sport. 

Hockey Fans in Training (Hockey FIT®) is a novel, evidence-based, gender-sensitized, weight loss and healthy lifestyle program that engages men using the power of being a sports fan. Hockey FIT was developed by Dr. Robert Petrella, the Principal Investigator for this project, who also oversees all project activities. Dr. Dawn Gill, a Scientist and Research Manager within the Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, is the Manager for the Hockey FIT project. Other full-time project staff within the Centre for Studies in Family Medicine include: Dr. Brendan Riggin, Hockey FIT Implementation Lead and Head Coach; Ms. Brooke Bliss, Hockey FIT Assistant Head Coach and Communications Lead; and Mr. Nathan Christopher, Hockey FIT Coach Trainer and Site Coordinator. In addition to these full-time staff, numerous other part-time staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students are important members of the Hockey FIT® Central Research Team.

For more information, please visit our website


HealtheSteps™ to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 on Chronic Disease Risk

Recognizing the significant impact that COVID-19 will have on the health of Canadians, Dr. Petrella and his team adapted the HealtheSteps™ (HeS) in-person program to be delivered virtually. HeS is currently being delivered as a free, virtual, 6-month healthy lifestyle program, providing adults (18+) with a specific plan of action to improve their PA levels and reduce their sedentary behaviour; increase their exercise levels; improve their eating habits; and improve their mental wellbeing. This is achieved through personalized coaching, grounded in the principles of Co-Active coaching and supported by innovative health technologies, hands-on training, and widely available health promotion resources and tools. Coaches are trained through asynchronous and synchronous learning and certified to deliver the program to individuals looking to make changes to their lifestyle.

Currently, HeS is being delivered virtually to adults living in British Columbia and Ontario by undergraduate medical students and kinesiology students at the University of British Columbia and Western University. The research team is always looking for new partnerships with primary care and other health care organizations. If interested in learning more, please visit our website

Individuals interested in completing the training to be a HeS coach should contact us through our website

Patient and self-referrals to participate in the program are also welcome

The Heart & Mind Study

The Heart & Mind Study

The Heart and Mind Study, led by Dr. Robert Petrella and funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, investigates the effects of high-intensity training on dementia risk in those with hypertension and a self-reported memory complaint. Throughout the study, participants’ blood pressure and cognitive abilities are tracked.

The overarching objective of the Heart & Mind Study is to determine whether high-intensity interval training is more effective than a regular exercise regime on blood pressure and memory in older adults.

If results indicate that high-intensity interval training is superior (compared to a regular exercise regime), this could help with the design of future fitness programs for older adults with hypertension and self-reported memory complaints.

Funding Source: Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.