Moving Canadians through Exercise Science

Leigh Vanderloo | Educators |

Science has always been a passion of mine. I was definitely the nerdy kid who asked for a microscope for Christmas or looked for any opportunity to run my “experiments” in the kitchen.

While I wasn’t always sure what I wanted to do, I knew that I wanted to be in science and I wanted to work with kids.

I completed three degrees at the University of Western Ontario: an Honours Specialization Bachelor’s in Health Sciences, a Master’s of Science (Health Promotion), and a PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (Paediatric Exercise Science). My doctoral work focused on young children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours.

Wrapping up my program, I was nervous about “what comes next.” This was probably the first time in my life that I didn’t have a plan, and it was definitely an uneasy feeling. I don’t know if the stars just happened to align or what, but just two days after my PhD defense I got an interview with ParticipACTION, a non-profit organization aimed at helping Canadians move more and sit less. Fast-forward two more days and I was offered the position as Knowledge Translation Manager – a much-coveted spot for anyone in the physical activity field.

As Canada’s premier brand for physical activity, ParticipACTION offers national programs to get people moving, and aims to be the go-to source for the latest and greatest relevant physical activity information in the country. This role offers me the opportunity to apply my expertise in a way that helps convert today’s research into more consumable bits of information for the public.

Despite much progress, science still feels like a male-dominated field. So as a female scientist, I find it empowering to be in a position where I can investigate population-based problems and offer up potential solutions, all the while serving (hopefully!) as a role model for future generations. My perseverance, strong work ethic, and curiosity have definitely helped me be successful in this field.

Probably the coolest thing about my job is that it allows me to be a creative researcher who connects with real Canadians everyday – be it via scientific papers, social media, blog posts, or media interviews – to help make the evidence meaningful to them and their lives. At ParticipACTION, I’m in the awesome position to interact with rich data every day and exercise my problem-solving skills – and all of this happens outside a lab!