Student & ECR Spotlight – Meet François Gallant, a PhD student aiming to understand the long-term effects of teenage sport participation

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

Currently, I am a second-year PhD student at the Université de Sherbrooke health sciences research program. Initially, I completed an undergraduate degree in kinesiology (Université de Moncton; 2015) and a master’s degree in health sciences research (Université de Sherbrooke; 2017). During my master’s degree, I investigated how early sport specialization and sport sampling in youth aged 10 years old is associated with sport involvement at age 15 years. My PhD research program is an extension of my Master’s work. Before starting my PhD degree, I was a research coordinator at the Chronic Disease Prevention Research Laboratory, at the Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau-Brunswick, for two years.

How do you explain your current research/job to friends and family? What is your main research interest?

Involvement in sport has the potential to improve health and well-being of participants in the long-term. However, to better understand any potential benefits of sport participation, there is a need to understand how individuals take part in sport. For example, while some individuals dedicate themselves completely to one sport, others may take part in multiple sports at any given time, and others may not participate in sport at all. The way individuals take part in sport – their sport participation profile – may be associated with benefits or consequences over time. Therefore, I am interested in understanding how these sport participation profiles are associated with future health.

My research is aimed at describing different sport participation profiles during adolescence and understanding associations between sport participation profiles and long-term health outcomes (for example, physical activity levels, body composition, and blood pressure).

What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field? 

I believe that moving away from describing overall trends and improving our understanding of the specificities of behavioural development (whether it be physical activity, sport involvement, nutrition, sleep, etc.) represents an important area of development for our field. Identifying sub-groups of individuals with developmental trajectories of behaviours associated with positive or negative health outcomes will help recognize and understand key determinants of behaviours and health outcomes. Such findings will also help identify optimal timing for interventions and provide the details needed to tailor interventions for long-term effectiveness. 

Given unlimited funding, what would your dream research project be?

If money were no object, I would love to have a living lab dedicated to sport research. Generally speaking, this living lab would allow us to detail daily sport participation and sport intervention practices in youth of all competitive levels, understand the short-, and medium-term effects of specific sport programming, as well as develop best practices for sport involvement. Further, ongoing data collection will allow us to improve the understanding of potential long-term benefits, or consequences, of youth sport participation.

If you’d like to get in touch with Francois, you can do so via email  [email protected], Twitter or LinkedIn