Brenton Button and Sylvia Rinaldi Successfully Defend their PhD Theses

The HEAL would like to congratulate Brenton Button and Sylvia Rinaldi who successfully defended their theses under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland and Dr. Janet Madill in 2020.

Spatial Temporal Environment and Activity Monitoring (STEAM)

Brenton Button successfully defended his PhD thesis titled Examining the environmental influences on physical activity among children in rural Northern Ontario. Brenton completed his Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Geography under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland. During his studies, Brenton examined the environmental influences of physical activity (PA) in rural Northern Ontario. To achieve this purpose, a mix of surveys, PA monitoring devices, and focus groups were used to gather data on children and their PA.

First, data on children from Southern Ontario and rural Northern Ontario showed that different factors influence PA on weekdays as compared to weekends and children from rural Northern Ontario were more active than children from rural, urban, and suburban Southern Ontario on weekends.

Second, data from Northern Ontario was analyzed, and boys were more active than girls, children were more active on weekdays compared to weekends, children were less active on days with precipitation, and higher temperature led to an increase in PA.

Third, researchers asked small groups of children about their thoughts about their PA in their environment. Children said places to play, weather, friends, and fearing animals impacted their PA.

Overall, all these results suggest that different components of time and specific factors related to living in a rural environment impact children’s PA. These results can be used to plan intervention in these rural areas to help promote children’s PA levels and overall health.


Sylvia Rinaldi successfully defended her PhD thesis titled Influence of nutrition status and body composition on exercise capacity and survival among individuals among individuals with interstitial lung disease: a cross-sectional study in an outpatient setting. Sylvia completed her Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland and Dr. Janet Madill.

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) and its treatments put patients at risk of poor nutrition. However, little is known about the link between nutrition and ILD, nor about the influence of nutrition on survival in patients with ILD. Most ILD nutrition research has focused on weight and body mass index (BMI).

Therefore, the primary objective of this study was to determine how common malnutrition is in ILD patients using the subjective global assessment (SGA), and to estimate body composition (lean body mass and body fat) using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) among 78 individuals diagnosed with ILD. A second objective of this research was to investigate if suspected markers of nutrition status, such as, standardized phase angle (SPhA) and impedance ratio z-score (z-IR) measured using BIA, can be used to accurately identify malnutrition. The third objective of this research was to explore how nutrition status and body composition are related to exercise capacity, using 6-minute walk distance (6MWD). Lastly, the fourth objective explored the relationship between body composition and nutrition status with survival.

A large portion of the patients were mildly malnourished (49%). Lean body mass controlled for age, sex and height, and nutrition status were significantly associated with exercise capacity regardless of the severity of ILD. Low BMI, low muscle mass and low body fat were associated with severe malnutrition. z-IR, but not SPhA, was associated with severe malnutrition. Age, BMI, lean body mass, body fat, exercise capacity, disease severity and severe malnutrition predicted survival in ILD patients. Muscle mass controlled for age, sex and height, and severe malnutrition predicted survival regardless of disease severity.

These results justify future exploration into the nutritional status of ILD patients which can be used to develop individualized nutrition care plan for patients with ILD. Future research should assess if nutrition interventions can increase muscle mass and/or exercise capacity. When possible, muscle mass should be measured along with or in place of BMI as it can better identify those at risk of death with ILD.

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