Eli Puterman

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Acute exercise
cellular aging
chronic stress
Exercise interventions
Health Psychology
Physical Activity
Physical literacy
Stress physiology

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Research Methodology

Laboratory stress induction
Treadmill exercise sessions
wet lab
blood draws
randomized behavioural trials


Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

Our Fitness, Aging and Stress Lab at UBC is currently actively engaged in several different laboratory and community studies. In the laboratory, we are examining the impact of different lengths and intensities of exercise on biological and psychological responses to acute stressors. We are also examining the flip side of this - how chronic and acute stress impact biological and psychological responses to acute bouts of exercise.
In our lab, we are also recruiting 10 year old children to study the associations between physical literacy and activity with social and emotional development, and biological 'omic' profiles, including metabolomic, proteomic, and microbiomic profiles.
Finally, our lab is also analyzing data from large nationally representative studies, such as Health and Retirement Study and the Midlife in The United States Study, examining longterm impacts of socioeconomic disadvantage and chronic stressors on physical activity engagement and disease.

I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Assessment and training of physical literacy in early childhood educators (2019)

Educators working in early childhood education and care receive little to no training in physical activity or physical literacy. However, they are expected to adhere to government standards for physical activity and skill development during the childcare day. This dissertation sought to determine what characterizes a successful intervention aiming to train educators in physical activity and/or physical literacy, what barriers and facilitators educators identify in meeting daily activity standards, what the physical literacy of educators is, and if educator physical literacy is associated with their behaviours and intentions to provide physical activity or physical literacy activities regularly. A systematic review was undertaken to parse apart the distinct characteristics of effective training interventions in physical activity or physical literacy. Training programs that provided ongoing support, relied on a theoretical framework, and objectively measured study fidelity were more successful. Educators were interviewed (n=24) to assess facilitators and barriers they face when implementing policy mandated activity standards. Results demonstrated that the personal values of educators facilitated adherence, and if physical space was poor, or resources were low, adherence was inhibited. Finally, a cross-sectional study measured the physical literacy of educators (n=94), and utilized regression analysis to determine relationships between measured physical literacy and self-reported behaviours and intentions to provide physical activity and/or physical literacy opportunities daily. Physical activity behaviour and understanding were high, but the remaining components of physical literacy were moderate. A relationship was found between educator self-reported intentions and behaviours for providing physical activity opportunities and the physical literacy component of understanding, but no relationship was found for the other components of physical literacy. The results of these three studies demonstrate that educators are trainable in physical activity and physical literacy, but high-quality training programs that provide continued support and/or training for educators are needed. Training programs may not need to focus on the personal physical literacy of educators. Mandating training for educators to provide quality physical literacy opportunities to children should be a high public health priority.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Acute exercise alters cortisol responses to psychosocial stress: a mechanism of exercise intensity (2019)

While the body’s stress system plays an adaptive role in helping humans respond to challenging and threatening stimuli, frequent or prolonged exposure to difficult stressors can detriment both physical and psychological health, and lead to the eventual development of chronic diseases. Though chronic activation of the stress system damages health, physical activity can mitigate the psychological and physiological stress response in daily life, benefiting long term health. While research has examined the effects of fitness level and frequent physical activity on various features of the human stress response, little is known regarding the effect of a single bout of aerobic activity on the physiological reactivity to an acute stressor (i.e. the increasing response over time), and the recovery, or return, back to baseline. The current study thus investigated two research questions: (1) whether the effects of exercise on the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis response (i.e. reactivity and recovery) to an acute stressor depends on the intensity at which a bout of exercise is performed, and (2) whether associations exist between the HPA-axis outcomes of exercising at various intensities and the cortisol responses to a subsequent psychosocial stressor, delineating a biological mechanism of the stress-buffering effects of exercise. These questions were addressed by constructing mixed-effects models, with between person and within person effects, in which eighty-three 18- to 30-year-old men were randomized to exercise at either 30%, 50% or 70% of their heart rate reserve and then underwent a psychosocial stress task. ANCOVA and Multilevel Growth Curve Analysis determined that more intense exercise elicited dampened cortisol responses to the stress task, marked by lower total cortisol levels, diminished cortisol reactivity and faster recovery to baseline values, as compared to less intense exercise. Moreover, exercise itself elicited a cortisol response proportional to the intensity at which it was performed, and this exercise-associated HPA-axis response was inversely proportional to the cortisol response to the subsequent stress task. This study concluded that exercise-intensity dampens the HPA-axis stress response in a dose dependent manner with mounting evidence that the cortisol released from exercising intensely helps to suppress the subsequent cortisol response to a stressor.

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The multidisciplinary correlates of chronic stress in Canadians (2019)

Background: Nearly one-quarter of Canadians report high levels of daily stress. This is alarming as chronic stress has been associated with several co-morbidities and premature mortality. In order to create beneficial interventions and public policy, factors associated with stress must be identified. While a wealth of research has determined a myriad of correlates of stress, the majority of this work has used approaches that focus on a very limited number of correlates per study, often from within one field of study. Currently there are no studies that analyze large-scale data sets and test multiple variables simultaneously.Methods: This study analyzed data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey - Mental Health, including 67 factors from a range of disciplines and over 23,000 participants. This study uses two approaches to test the associations between these factors and chronic stress including traditional statistics (i.e., simple linear regression and multiple linear regression) and machine learning algorithms (i.e., random forest analysis). Results: The simple linear regression analysis showed that negative social interaction, life satisfaction, and higher levels of insomnia have the largest effect size in their association with chronic stress. Random forest analyses found that, after accounting for variance from other factors and considering complex interactions, life satisfaction, negative social interactions, and age were the most important correlates of chronic stress.Conclusion: This study highlights that the important correlates of stress do not come from one field, but rather are a combination of psychological, social, and demographic factors. These novel findings highlight potential target pathways for devising new stress reduction interventions. However, as this study was exploratory and correlational, more research is needed regarding direction of effect and potential confounding variables.

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To what extent are movement behaviours associated with emotional well-being in grades four and five children? Results from the Optimizing Movement in Children Study (2018)

The potential mechanisms driving the optimal, healthy physical and psychological development of children have been studied extensively (Janssen et al., 2010; Milteer, Ginsburg, & Mulligan, 2012; Parfitt & Eston, 2005). Specific movement behaviours, including physical activity, sedentary time, and sleep have been studied independently to examine their influence on health outcomes. Emotional well-being, which encompasses a variety of psychological concepts including optimism, general self-concept, satisfaction with life, and sadness, is considered an important element in the healthy development of children (Guerra & Bradshaw, 2008). This study examined the extent to which four objectively-measured movement behaviours – light physical activity (LPA), moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), sedentary time, and sleep – are associated with emotional well-being in a sample of grades four and five children (N = 21). This study had three objectives: 1) to examine independent associations between the four separate movement behaviours and emotional well-being, 2) to examine the relationship between one movement behaviour and emotional well-being relative to time spent in other movement behaviours using compositional analysis, and 3) to examine whether time spent in sedentary screen activities versus non-screen sedentary activities moderated the relationship between objectively-measured sedentary time and emotional well-being. For objective 1, among the independent Spearman correlations, only MVPA was significantly and positively correlated with emotional well-being (ρ = 0.77, p
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