Laboratoire d’Investigations sur les Mécanismes et Prédicteurs de liens entre Activités physiques, autres Comportements et Trajectoires de Santé


View our latest video which explains the main findings of the MATCH study so far:

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The “Monitoring Activities of Teenagers to Comprehend their Habits” (MATCH) study aims to better understand how sport and physical activity participation evolve during childhood and adolescence. MATCH is unique given it collects more detailed information on sport and physical activity than other studies and does so on a greater frequency on a long period of time. 936 students completed self-report questionnaires every four months from grade 5 or 6 until the end of grade 12. These same participants are now asked to complete self-report questionnaires every year.

To complement all of this information, MATCH also has a sub-sample of 23 participants who take part in individual interviews annually. Parents (or guardians) of students took part in a telephone-administered questionnaire in the first year of the study. Finally, a school environment assessment was conducted for every school in collaboration with school representatives at two different times.

The frequent follow-ups enable characterising behaviours during periods of important changes and development. Results to date have identified predictors of participation in different types of sports at the level of the individual (i.e., personal attributes, psychological characteristics), the social environment (i.e., behaviours of peers, support from parents), and the physical environment (i.e., rurality, access to infrastructure). MATCH data also indicate that participation in different types of sports is differentially associated with different outcomes, including quality of life, psychological wellbeing, and future participation in sports.

Here’s a video we made for the participants of the study:


  • Explore the physical activity-related experiences of participants in various types of physical activity.
  • Better understand the process of maintaining, increasing, and decreasing physical activity during the transitions from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
  • Describe the association between theory driven factors and adherence to different types of physical activity in youth and young adults;
  • Test if change in theory-based factors is associated with change in level of participation in different types of physical activity.
    Test if the association between theory-based factors and change in different types of physical activity is mediated by other factors.
  • Test whether there are cumulative, timing or threshold effects of exposure to sports during childhood and adolescence on the likelihood of participating in sports in early adulthood.
  • Examine whether there are cumulative and timing effects of exposure to social transitions and life stresses on the likelihood of participating in sports in early adulthood.
  • Investigate whether there is an association between exposure to sports during childhood and adolescence and markers of resilience during the transition to post-secondary education or the workforce.
  • Assess associations between infrastructure, programming or events provided by post-secondary institutions and recreation departments and the maintenance or uptake of sport participation in early adulthood.
  • Test associations between usages of technology developed to support physical activity and the maintenance or uptake of sport participation in early adulthood.


Investigators: Mathieu Bélanger (Principal investigator), Jennifer Brunet, Isabelle Doré, Katie Gunnell, Jennifer O’Loughlin, and Catherine Sabiston

Research professional: Julie Goguen Carpenter   

Students (past and present): Emilie Beaulieu (MD-Sherbrooke), Julie Goguen Carpenter (MSc-Sherbrooke), Marie-Claude Lavigne-Albert (MD-Sherbrooke), Jason MacKenzie (MSc-Sherbrooke), Erin Wing (MSc-Ottawa), Stéphanie Ward (MSc-Sherbrooke), François Gallant (MSc-Sherbrooke), Kristy Smith (PhD-Windsor), Marie-Ève Michaud (MSc-Sherbrooke) 

Postdoctoral researchers (past and present): Katie Gunnell (Ottawa), Patrick Abi Nader (Sherbrooke), Isabelle Doré (Toronto) and Jodie Stearns (Ottawa), Radhouene Doggui (Sherbrooke) 

Some key findings to date include (updated December 2018): 

Children who take part in a wide variety of sports are more likely to pursue participation in physical activity as they become adolescents. In contrast, children who specialize into a sport are at greater risk of dropping out of sports when they get older. (Gallant, F., O’Loughlin, J., Brunet, J., Sabiston, C., Bélanger, M. 2017. Pediatrics) 

Both recreational and performance sport participation profiles in childhood and early adolescence are positively associated with positive mental health in late adolescence. (Isabelle Doré, Catherine Sabiston, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre, Jennifer Brunet, Jennifer O’Loughlin, Patrick Abi Nader, François Gallant, Mathieu Bélanger – Journal of Adolescent Health, 2019) 

Youth with at least one parent who participates in interdependent sports are more likely to maintain participation in interdependent sports. Youth’s sustained participation in coactive/independent sports was not associated with parents’ participation in coactive/independent sports. (Brunet, J., Gaudet, J., Wing, E., Bélanger, M. 2017. Journal of Sport and Health Science)

MATCH clarified that spending time outdoors is beneficial to mental health because it represents a venue for participation in physical activity. Hence, the mental health benefits associated with outdoor time appear largely attributable to physical activity. (Mathieu Bélanger, François Gallant, Patrick Abi Nader, Jennifer O’Loughlin, Catherine Sabiston, Isabelle Doré, Katie Gunnell, Richard Larouche, Marie-Pierre Sylvestre– Under Review) 

The occurrence of life stresses often results in increases in levels of participation in unorganized sports, suggesting that these activities represent a solution to deal with adversities such as breakups, grievance and low parental support. (Patrick Abi Nader, Stéphanie Ward, Sherif Eltonsy, Mathieu Bélanger – Preventive Medicine, 2018)

Children who report taking part in physical activity because they enjoy it, typically take part in more organized physical activity. Children who want to be active to improve their skills often take part in group-based physical activity and are more likely to attain the recommended levels of physical activity every day. (Goguen, J., Bélanger, M., Xhignesse, M., Ward, S., Sabiston, C., O’Loughlin, J. 2015. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology)

There are internal (ex: “I am not interested in physical activity”) and external barriers (ex: “I do not have the equipment I need”) to physical activity but only internal barriers are susceptible to keep youth away from physical activity. (Gunnell, K.E., Brunet, J., Wing, E.K., Bélanger. 2015. Pediatric Exercise Science)

Although MATCH researchers found that proximity of PA infrastructures like parks, trails or gyms did not appear to affect maintenance of physical activity, they found that active commuting environments helped girls and boys be more active. (MacKenzie, J., Brunet, J., Boudreau, J., Iancu, H.D., Bélanger, M. 2015. Preventive Medicine Reports; Ward, S., Bélanger, M., Goguen-Carpenter, J., Caissie, I., Vanasse, A., Donovan, D. 2015. Journal of School Health)

There are theories suggesting that humans need to be satisfied to live a happy life. For example, the theory says that one needs to have positive social interactions during physical activity as well as positive feelings of competence and finally, feelings of autonomy such as being able to do what you want when you want to. MATCH researchers found that the more these needs were satisfied over time, the more active people were. Also, when physical activity increases as a result of better satisfaction of these psychological needs, we found that quality of life improves. And that is whether we think of quality of life from a physical or a social perspective. (Gunnell, K. E., Brunet, J., & Bélanger, M. 2016. Health Psychology ; Gunnell, K. E., Brunet, J., Sabiston, C. M., Bélanger, M. 2016. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology; Brunet J., Gunnell, K. E., Teixeira, P., Sabiston, C. M., Bélanger, M. 2016. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.)

Perceived tangible parental support was positively associ¬ated with self-efficacy and enjoyment of physical activity, and perceived intangible parental support was positively associated with enjoyment of physical activity. Self-ef¬ficacy beliefs and enjoyment of physical activity were positively associated with participation in physical activity in- and out-of-school. (Wing, E.K., Bélanger, M., Brunet, J. 2016. American Journal of Health Behavior)  

Participation in organized sports declines faster among individuals that are the youngest of their age cohort (i.e., born at the end of the year). Such a Relative Age Effect was not apparent for unorganized sports. (Kristy L. Smith, Laura Chittle, Jess C. Dixon, Sean Horton, Mathieu Bélanger, & Patricia L. Weir – Under Review) 

Policy implications 

Given the finding that children who do not participate in sports during childhood are at elevated risk of not participating in physical activity later on, strategies are needed to find ways to involve all children in developmentally appropriate sporting activities. These could include after school programs and noncompetitive sports.

People working with children in sports should understand that involvement in sport sampling (i.e., taking part in a wide variety of different physical activities) during childhood is preferable to sport specializing (i.e., having a high level of participation in only one activity) since it reduces the risk of dropping out of sport.

We found that youth turn to unorganized sport participation as a mechanism to deal with life stresses (i.e. breakups). Therefore, more societal efforts should be implemented to facilitate youth participation in unorganized sports. Only about 1/3 of Canadian youth participate in unorganized sports regularly, such that many may be missing out on the benefits associated with these. Additionally, as 3/4 of Canadian youth participate in organized sports, it may be beneficial to equip sport programs with the skills required to assist youth dealing with life stresses.  

Recognizing the importance attributed by children to enjoyment motives (having fun), sport practitioners, schools and communities hoping to increase participation in organized sports should aim at making their activities interesting, fun, and stimulating.  

To increase participation in group-based sports, interventions may need to incorporate consideration of competence motives by reinforcing skill development and enhanced performance and offering realistic and attainable challenges through sport participation opportunities. 

To increase satisfaction of psychological needs (i.e. competence, relatedness and autonomy), which in turn can increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among youth, schools and sport organizations should: 1- Provide opportunities for youth to practice new skills with the help of a sport professional and encourage them to keep practicing these skills in order to become more at ease and feel more confident (competence), 2- Allow students to choose activities according to their interests. This will group together youth with similar objectives and facilitate development of relationships (relatedness), and 3- Offer opportunities for youth to choose the activity in which they want to engage without questioning their motives or trying to control the outcomes (autonomy).  

School environment was strongly related to sport participation, and most specifically to participation in organized sports. Schools and school boards could work together to implement active commuting programs, such as “Walking school bus” programs, active transportation days, and modify policies or create infrastructures that promote active commuting to school, such as allowing skateboards on school premises, offering bike racks, and ensuring that crossing guards are present at pedestrian crossings. 

Parents’ sport participation may have an influence on types of activities practiced by youth, especially for activities that are relatively less popular among youth. Communities and sport organizations should offer more opportunities for parents to be active such as adult sports teams and leagues as a strategy for increasing sport participation in youth.  

Internal barriers to sports appear to have a larger influence on MVPA than external barriers. Programs aimed at increasing sport participation in youth should be discussed with youth so that their internal barriers are taken into consideration prior to implementation. 

Access to MATCH data

1. Introduction
All applicants that wish to have access to, and use data from the MATCH study to conduct secondary data analyses should contact Mathieu Bélanger or the research coordinator for the MATCH study. In addition to protecting the confidentiality of the data and assuring the ethics and legality of their use by Data Users, the intent is to assure that publications emanating from this database are consistent in the sample sizes and in the variables reported, and that there is no overlap between analyses undertaken and publications.

2. Ownership of MATCH Data 
MATCH data belong to the Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators of the MATCH study. Data Users do not own the data. 

3. Application for MATCH Data  
Access to data collected in the MATCH Study is open to any university-appointed/affiliated investigator upon successful completion of the application process. MSc, PhD, and Postdoctoral students may apply for use of the data through their primary supervisor. In order to obtain access, applicants must submit an electronic copy of the “Request for MATCH Data Application Form” to the MATCH Research Team. This form is available upon request.

4. Review of Proposal 
Receipt of the “Request for MATCH Data Application Form” will initiate the review process by the MATCH Research Team. The proposal will be reviewed by 2-3 members of the MATCH Research Team and/or by persons with specialized expertise outside the team. Approval will be based on scientific merit, relevance, and overlap with other projects. The review process will produce one of two outcomes – acceptance or rejection. Results of the review (including recommendations, and/or reason(s) for rejection) will be communicated by email to applicants within 4-6 weeks of the date of application.  

5. IRB Approval 
Data Users will/may be requested to provide a certificate of ethics approval from their own institutional IRB.  

6. Preparation of the Database for Release to Data Users 
The MATCH Research Team will prepare/has prepared a listing of databases which include all MATCH data. After acceptance of the proposal, MATCH Research Team will release the relevant password-protected databases to the Data User. The MATCH Research Team reserves the right to refuse to release specific variables. Note that some databases may have restrictions on their use.  

7. Confidentiality  
The MATCH Research Team has taken great care to protect the identity of participants and to safeguard their privacy and the confidentiality of the data they provided. Any secondary analyses undertaken using these data must also maintain the confidentiality of these data. To assure confidentiality, the data provided to Data Users will be stripped of all identifiers including original Name, name of Early Learning Centre, etc.  

8. Data Security 
The MATCH data set(s) must be stored in a password-protected location. Giving access to or sharing/transferring the database to individuals not named in the proposal, or using MATCH data for purposes not described in the approved “Request for MATCH Data Application Form” are considered by the MATCH Research Team as a serious and unacceptable breach of the agreement between the MATCH Research Team and the Data User and are strictly forbidden. If data are passed on to anyone not named in the application, or if data are used for purposes other than those described in the approved “Request for MATCH Data Application Form”, the MATCH Research Team will request the immediate return of the data, it will inform the Data User’s institution, and it will request that any publication emanating from use of the data be immediately withdrawn.  

9. Need for Additional Variables 
If the Data User needs variables that are not described in the approved proposal, they must submit a request by email to the MATCH Research Team explaining the need for new variables, what new analyses will be undertaken, and if this addition changes the timeline described in the original proposal.  

10. Progress Reports 
The MATCH Research Team may ask for brief progress reports periodically. 

11. Date of Project Completion  
Applicants must indicate a project completion data on the Data Request Application Form. If the expected publications, abstracts, or reports are not submitted to the MATCH Research Team by the completion date indicated, the data will revert to the MATCH Research Team and the topics on which the Data User has worked will become available for others to use. If applicable, Data Users may submit a request for extension of the project completion data to the MATCH Research team explaining why additional time is needed. 

12. Final Report 
Data Users must submit a short final report to the MATCH Research Team that lists all documents/products that have been produced (i.e. manuscripts, publications, reports abstracts, ppt presentations, etc). Copies of all project products must be included in the report. 

13. Return of the Database and the code used to analyze the data 
MATCH databases including the code used to analyze the data must be returned to the MATCH Research Team upon project completion (i.e. immediately upon publication of the manuscript emanating from the analysis). Databases and codes will be stored intact by the MATCH Research Team for five years after project completion.  

14. Acknowledgements 
All documents (manuscripts, reports, publications, abstracts, etc) emanating from the proposal must acknowledge the MATCH funding source as follows: “The data used in this analysis were drawn from the MATCH project, which was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Sport Canada through the joint Sport Participation Research Initiative and by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation”. 

15. New Analyses 
Under no circumstances may Data Users conduct analyses outside the mandate of the approved project. If Data Users wish to conduct a new/different analysis or use data for reasons other than those described in the original proposal, they must submit a new proposal to the MATCH Research Team. 

16. Data User Agreement Form 
After approval of the proposal, all persons named in the proposal must sign the “Data User Agreement Form”.

17. Cost Recovery 
Depending on the complexity of the request Data Users may be asked to pay for the preparation of databases (programming time).  

18. Publication 
Data users must submit final version of manuscripts to the MATCH Research Team for review before they are published. This is to assure that: (i) the numbers of subjects reported are consistent across publications; (ii) the variables are used in a comparable way across publications to the extent possible; and (iii) the MATCH Research team has seen and endorsed the publication before it goes to print. If there are questions or issues that arise, the MATCH team may ask for the programs used to analyze the data and may decide to re-analyze to data. If the Data User publishes data without approval, the MATCH team can withdraw or retract the publication from the journal. 

19. Authorship 
Data users are responsible for determining co-authors to include on any scientific communication based on MATCH data. However, given work involved in planning, preparing, and coordinating the MATCH study, it is expected that the contributions of the principal investigator of the MATCH study will be recognised through authorship on all publication and presentation of results emanating from the MATCH study. Data Users are also encouraged to consider inviting co-investigators of the MATCH Study to contribute as co-authors on their scientific communications. Data users should not hesitate to communicate with th e principle investigator to discuss authorship related questions.