Active Research Studies

LIFE and Health for Young Children with Congenital
Heart Defects

Lead PI: Patricia Longmuir

Main study contact: Miranda DiGasparro [email protected]

Research suggests that children’s physical activity begins to decline as early as 3 years of age. Inactive childhoods triple the risk of sedentary lifestyles, which, in adulthood are associated with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. We know that children with congenital heart defects (CHD) are often less active than other children. The purpose of this research study was to find out if the movement skills and physical activity of children with CHD was related to their diagnosis or treatment.

Children with CHD were recruited to complete assessments of movement skill (Peabody Developmental Motor Scales-2 for children less than 6 years of age; Test of Gross Motor Development-2 for children 3 years of age or older), eye-hand coordination across the midline of the body, quality of life (PedsQL questionnaire) and daily activity (wearing an accelerometer for 7 days). Children were assessed every 8 months until 5 years of age and then once per year.

To date, we have found that children with simple or complex CHD or innocent heart murmurs have an increased risk for inactive lifestyles. The children who participated had, on average, the same movement skills as other children their age. While a small proportion of the children (about 10%) achieved the physical activity recommended for optimal health, most participants were less active than their peers. These differences in activity level could be recognized as early as 18 months of age and they persisted until age 6 years. The study results were not influenced by the children’s diagnosis or treatment. These results emphasize the need for interventions targeting the youngest children seen in a cardiac clinic, regardless of CHD diagnosis or innocent murmur. We are continuing to enroll children into this study, and to complete assessments until all children are 10 years of age. What we learn through this study will help us to encourage healthy lifestyles among children with CHD and develop new ways to support active play and the quality of life of children living with CHD.

HELP (HEalthy Lifestyles Project) for Youth Experiencing Mental Distress – E-Intervention Pilot Study

Lead PIs: Pat Longmuir & Clare Gray

Main study contact: Miranda DiGasparro [email protected]

Many youth today are living with mental distress. The number of youth thinking about suicide or self-harm has doubled since 2015. Psychiatrists often see patients whose unhealthy lifestyle choices are important factors that contribute to their mental distress. Research evidence has shown that poor sleep habits, high amounts of screen time and limited physical activity are linked with poor mental health.

This study is evaluating whether youth seeking mental health support will use virtual resources designed to encourage healthy lifestyle habits. Youth experiencing emotional distress are invited to try out these virtual resources. We want to learn what youth think about the resources and how they can be improved. The study results will guide us in developing virtual resources that can help youth to achieve the physical and mental health benefits of healthy, active lifestyles.

The study will run from August 2021 to June 2022, after which the results will be posted to this webpage.

This project is made possible by funding from the following: FRAYME Grant Program, CHEO Research Institute Summer Studentship Funding, ESDC Summer Studentship, and the CHEO Division of Psychiatry Summer Student Funding

Preventing Sedentary Lifestyles among Children Born with Congenital Heart Defects; A feasibility study of physical activity after surgical or catheterization intervention

Lead PI: Pat Longmuir

Main Study Contact: Miranda DiGasparro [email protected]

Active play is critically important for young children. It is essential for normal growth and development and is how children socialize with peers. Our previous study among 127 children with a congenital heart defect found lower activity levels among patients 18 to 59 months of age compared to their healthy peers. Children with heart defects often did not recommended 180 minutes of physical activity per day. We suspect that CHD treatments may reduce active play opportunities, delaying motor skill development, and preventing active lifestyle habits from being establish in early childhood.

This study is evaluating the feasibility of a 6-month, home-based, parent-led, physical activity program, completed immediately after surgical or catheterization treatment. This study will determine whether parents are willing to join such a study during their child’s treatment, whether they are able to implement the home program, and what proportion of children are eligible to participate. Once we know this approach is feasible, we will do a larger study to evaluate the impact of the physical activity program among infants and young children with CHD. We think that encouraging appropriate physical activity during treatment and recovery would be the best approach for creating healthy physical activity habits among young children with CHD.

The study will run until May 2024, after which the results will be posted to this webpage.

This project is made possible by funding from the following: CIHR Project Grant, and a Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Bridge Grant.

Impacting Children’s Physical and Mental Health through Kinesiology Support in Clinical Care

Lead PIs: Dr. Hana Alazem and Pat Longmuir

Main Study Contact: Jenna Yaraskavitch [email protected]

This study is being done because physical activity is important for a healthy body and mind.  However, previous research studies have found that some children living with medical conditions or disabilities are not as active as they want to be. Often they don’t feel comfortable or confident enough to participate in activity. Through this research study we want to find out how we can help children with medical conditions or disabilities to be confident that they can play actively with their friends. Participants in the study will be randomly selected to attend a 12 week physical activity program in which participants will learn about physical activity and try different adaptable games and activities. We want to find out if coming to a physical activity group will increase participants’ confidence to engage in physical activity and increase daily physical activity over time.

The study will run until June 2022, after which the results will be posted to this webpage.

This project is made possible by funding from the PSI Foundation.