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Life-changing innovations require a level of risk. When a researcher redesigns her methodology to become the subject of her own study, it’s unique, brave territory.

And that’s exactly what Michelle Mottola did.

In 1994, Mottola, then pregnant with her first child, became the first human subject of the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation – Exercise and Pregnancy Research and Innovation Lab at Western University. As a kinesiology professor and the lab’s founding director, Mottola tested an activity and nutrition-based framework designed to improve the health of pregnant women through exercise and nutrition.

After working closely with more than 500 expectant mothers, Mottola is now considered one of North America’s top researchers in the study of exercise during pregnancy.

“My job is preventing diabetes between conception and birth but my passion is helping new mothers,” says Mottola, who also participated in the studies during her own second pregnancy.

With nearly 30 years of experience, Mottola stands at the forefront of gestational diabetes research. She co-led the team whose work culminated in the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy, a set of recommendations for physical activity for pregnant women developed with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP).

In addition to providing a nationally recognized framework for gestational diabetes prevention, CSEP guidelines are cited in the World Health Organization’s 2020 Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour.

The remarkable reach of Mottola’s work illustrates how research-intensive institutions, in collaboration with community members, can meaningfully improve human health and health-care delivery.

And for millions of women, her research has redefined healthy pregnancy as a positive outcome of exercise and nutrition.