In the Health and Exercise Psychology Lab, we seek to understand how psychological variables can impact health and exercise behaviour as well as how health and exercise behaviours can impact psychological variables.


  • 179 Extended Education
    Frank Kennedy Centre
    University of Manitoba
    Winnipeg, MB
    R3T 2N2

Areas of focus

A large focus of Dr. Strachan’s research is on psychological variables related to the self that impact the self-regulation of health behaviours, including exercise.

Key Areas of Research

  • Self-compassion and health behaviours
  • Health identities, possible selves and other self-perceptions
  • Affect and self-regulation
  • The application of psychological theories to health behaviours
  • Physical activity counselling

Current research projects

Self-compassion and Chronic Disease: Health behaviours, including physical activity reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions and can help people recover from them. Few people at risk for or living with chronic conditions engage in these health behaviours at a sufficient level. Low levels of health behavioural engagement may be due, in part, to the challenges people with or at risk for chronic conditions face in managing health behaviours. Researchers use the word “self-regulation” to describe the process of managing our health behaviours. Successful self-regulation involves actions like setting goals, monitoring progress and adjusting behaviours when insufficient progress is made. People who are self-compassionate, that is, kind to themselves in difficult times, are good at self-regulating their health; they prioritize their health, engage in helpful processes such as planning and goal-setting, and experience less distress which could otherwise interfere with self-regulation. Therefore, self-compassion would be an asset for people at risk for or recovering from a chronic condition. We are conducting two studies where we examine self-compassion as a resource for people in the context of chronic conditions.

Self-Compassion and Pre-Diabetes: In this CIHR-funded pilot and feasibility study, we will examine whether teaching people at-risk for Type 2 diabetes to use self-compassion as they try to become more physically active helps them engage in physical activity. People at risk for Type 2 diabetes will learn about their Type 2 diabetes risk and strategies to increase their physical activity. In addition to this, some participants, but not all, will be taught to be self-compassionate in relation to their Type 2 diabetes risk and their efforts to increase their physical activity. We expect that people who receive self-compassion training will be more physically active than people who do not. We will also examine mediators of the proposed self-compassion-physical activity relationship. This study is important for health promotion because it allows us to determine if we can improve how we currently help people prevent Type 2 diabetes through engaging in physical activity.  

Self-Compassion and Cardiac Surgery: In this prospective study, we are observing if people’s levels of self-compassion their ability to manage and therefore engage in health behaviours during the 1 year recovery period after surgery. We will measure people’s self-compassion prior to cardiac surgery and follow them over the next year to see if their levels of self-compassion predict their engagement in health behaviours such as physical activity, nutrition and stress management. and ultimately indicators of recovery after surgery. We will also examine mediators of the proposed relationship between self-compassion and health behaviours. This study is important for health promotion as it allows us to determine if self-compassion is an asset for people recovering from cardiac surgery. If it is, we could teach people to approach their cardiac recover with self-compassion, which may help them self-regulate their health behavours and recover from their surgery.

Self-Compassion and Identity Adjustment: New mothers, who used to be physically active, often show a reduction in exercise from pre-to-post baby that can threaten their pre-motherhood exercise identity. This identity threat is concerning considering that exercise identity is one of the strongest predictors of exercise behaviour. If new mothers can adjust their exercise identity standard to something that is realistic for their new reality, they may be able to preserve their exercise identity and maintain some exercise; a healthy alternative to relentless pursuit or abandonment of their old identity. Identity theory lacks information about what predicts identity adaptation. Self-compassion, treating oneself kindly in the face of challenge, may promote identity adaptation. We examine the relationship between self-compassion and identity adaptation in mothers of young children (Mage who identify with exercise and reported a reduction in exercise following motherhood (identity challenge). We predict that self-compassion may help new mothers cope positively with exercise-related identity challenges.

Empathy study: Health care practitioners from a variety of professions (e.g. physical and occupational therapy, nursing, kinesiology) have opportunities to intervene through conversations with clients about their health behaviours. These interventions are among the most effective approaches to bring about health behaviour change. However, counselling may not come naturally to all health care practitioners who are challenged by held negative attitudes toward people who engage in unhealthy behaviours, or their beliefs that efforts to promote change are futile7. In this collaborative, pragmatic feasibility study, we will determine if students within health professions who receive instructions and focused reflection opportunities in perspective-taking, have better counselling competence than people who do not receive this training. By testing the efficacy of an empathic training tool, this research is practical given that empathy by health care professionals improves practitioner-client interactions. Finally, if supported, we will work with stake holders in various health professional programs to implement the training tool into curricula.

Primary investigator

Shaelyn Strachan, PhD

The primary objective of my research is to promote health through adherence to physical activity. My research centres on self-related variables and the role of these construct in the self-regulation of exercise.






Lab alumni

PhD Students

M.A. Students


Meade, L., Semenchuk, B., & Strachan, S. (2019). Is there positive in the negative? Understanding the role of guilt and shame in the self-regulation of physical activity. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Strachan, S. M., Bean, C., & Jung, M. E. (2018). “I’m on the train and I can’t stop it”: Reactions to being prediabetic and the role of self-compassion. Health and Social Care in the Community. 26, 979-987.

Strachan, S.M., Stadig, G, Jung, M.E & Semenchuk, B. (2018). Affective and self- presentational reactions to a public exercise identity challenge. Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity. 36, 132-138.

Semenchuk, B., Fortier, M., & Strachan, S.M. (2018) Self-compassion and self- regulation of exercise: Reactions to setbacks. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 40 (1), 31-39.

Strachan, S.M., Marcotte, M., Giller, T., & Brunet, J & Schellenberg, B. (2017). An online intervention to increase physical activity: Self-regulatory possible selves and the mediating role of task self-efficacy. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 31, 158-165.

Perras, M., Strachan, S.M., Fortier, M & Dufault, B. (2016) Impact of a randomized possible selves experiment on new retirees’ physical activity and identity. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 13, 7.