Skip to main content

Phillips Lab

Kiarri KershawThe Phillips Exercise and Health Lab, led by principal investigator Siobhan M. Phillips, PhD, conducts interdisciplinary research focused on understanding the determinants and health outcomes of physical activity participation and the translation of this research into practice. We are particularly intersected in the role of physical activity in cancer prevention, control and survivorship. However, we are interested in exploring ways to get everyone to be more active.

The public health recommendations for physical activity are that all adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. Unfortunately, over two-thirds of adults do not meet these recommendations for physical activity. Our goal is to change that. We want to make physical activity fun, accessible, and part of everyone's life. Our goal is to get people to move more and to feel better about themselves and their abilities.

There is likely not a "one size fits all" solution to the inactivity epidemic. Therefore, we are trying to understand: How much activity can we get people to do? How much activity is necessary for specific health benefits? How do we design and build programs that help people be more active and exercise for life?

We design, test, implement, and disseminate physical activity interventions. Most of our work focuses on cancer survivors, but we are also interested in the general population, special populations, and those with other chronic conditions. We use a variety of strategies to do this and are interested in partnering with physicians, community organizations, and the general public. 

If you are interested in learning more about our research, opportunities for collaborating or training opportunities, please visit our website,, or contact Dr. Phillips at

Research Studies

 Affective and Cognitive Responses to Acute Bouts of Aerobic Exercise, Mindfulness Meditation, and Combined Exercise and Meditation (Physical Activity and Mindfulness Study)

This experimental study is designed to examine the effects of three different acute bouts of the following activities: mindfulness training only (MIND), MVPA only (MVPA), or an MVPA+ mindfulness training (MVPA+MIND) on: a) heart rate, blood pressure, rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and feeling states during each acute bout and b) on changes in positive and negative affect, anxiety, and cognitive function measures from pre-session to immediately, and one hour post-session. Findings from this study will provide essential knowledge to help understand the feasibility and acceptability of engaging in MVPA and mindfulness training simultaneously and potential: a) mechanisms by which this approach may increase MVPA initiation and maintenance and b) health benefits of this approach (positive affect, anxiety, and cognitive function).

 Multi-site Adaptive Trial of a Technology-Based, EHR-Integrated Physical Activity Intervention in Breast and Endometrial Cancer Survivors (MyActivity)

The purpose of this study is to develop an effective and scalable physical activity intervention for breast and endometrial cancer survivors that will move from a one-size-fits-all approach to a dynamic, tailored approach for exercise promotion. This is a 6 month study with a 6 month follow-up. All women will receive a Fitbit plus integration of their Fitbit data into their electronic health record (EHR) and may receive additional components as needed. This study is a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is funded by the National Cancer Institute. Recruitment for this study will begin in January 2020. To learn more, please contact us at

 Technology Supported Physical Activity Intervention for Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients (Fit2ThriveMB)

The purpose of this study is to test the effectiveness of a technology-supported intervention, Fit2ThriveMB, to promote physical activity in metastatic breast cancer patients. This is a 12 week two-arm randomized control trial (RCT) where participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups: Fit2ThriveMB (Fit2ThriveMB app + Fitbit + coaching calls) or Healthy Lifestyle Waitlist Education Control Group ( app + phone calls control group).  The Fit2ThriveMB program is primarily focused on increasing steps and is designed with progressions tailored to symptom burden and progress toward physical activity goals so that individuals of varying abilities will be able to exercise safely. Waitlist participants will obtain access to the Fit2ThriveMB app and receive a Fitbit at the end of 12 weeks. This study is funded by the National Cancer Institute. Recruitment for this study is ongoing. To learn more about the study, please contact us at

 Impact of Chemotherapy on Activity Patterns in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy (IMPACT Study)

This is a prospective observational study that uses three 10-day ecological momentary assessment “bursts” of data collection at the beginning, middle, and end of chemotherapy to examine potential clinical (e.g. treatment dosage, treatment adherence), behavioral (e.g. self-efficacy, motivation) and psychosocial (e.g. fatigue, pain) determinants and outcomes of activity and sleep pattern changes during chemotherapy for breast cancer. This study was supported by the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.

 Designing to optimize dissemination and implementation of a physical activity intervention in breast cancer survivors (Fit2Thrive)

The primary purpose of this study is to develop and test the feasibility and acceptability of a set of five social-cognitive theory-guided mHealth physical activity intervention components in breast cancer survivors using a patient-centered approach. The effects of the intervention components on objectively-measured physical activity and quality of life indicators will also be examined in a 12-week intervention using multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) methodology whereby each component will be turned “on” or “off” in half of the sample. This study is funded by The National Cancer Institute (K07CA196840). To learn more about the study, please contact us at

 Cancer to 5K Program Evaluation Study

The purpose of this study is to examine potential pre- and post- participation changes in physical activity, motivation and patient reported outcomes including fatigue, depression, social isolation, and self-esteem among participants in the Cancer to 5K program. The Cancer to 5K program is a 12 week program which trains adolescent and young adult cancer survivors at 8 sites across the U.S. to train for a 5K race. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR001422). 

 Needs Assessment for Technology-Supported Lifestyle Interventions for Breast Cancer Survivors (Completed)

This is a cross-sectional survey that was conducted in the summer of 2015 to examine survivors’ (n=279) interest and preferences for technology-supported lifestyle interventions. We also explored potential social cognitive determinants of sedentary behavior. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR000150).

Education & Training Opportunities

If you are interested in joining the lab or working on a specific physical activity-related research project, please contact Phillips at Students can conduct research for course credit or independent study. Potential opportunities as a member of the lab include: conducting exercise testing, study management, data analyses, leading exercise sessions and helping to write manuscripts and grants. Experiences will vary depending on current projects and research interests.

Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship

The Exercise and Health Lab led by Dr. Siobhan Phillips in the Division of Behavioral Medicine in The Department of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is seeking applications from strong candidates for a new postdoctoral fellowship position in physical activity promotion.

This is a full-time position for an individual interested in understanding physical activity and sedentary behaviors, developing and implementing physical activity promotion and sedentary behavior reduction interventions in cancer prevention and control, and disseminating and implementing this research into practice. The funded fellow will actively participate in ongoing NIH funded studies focused on optimizing digital physical activity promotion in cancer survivors. Opportunities exist to contribute to project development, grant writing, study implementation and management, data analyses and manuscript writing (first- and co-author), and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students and staff. The fellow will receive guidance in the development of independent research interests and grant proposals. The fellow will be able to take full advantage of training, education, and mentorship opportunities offered through Northwestern University.  The candidate is expected to work in a highly collaborative fast paced environment.


  • Doctorate in kinesiology, exercise science, psychology, public health or other behavioral/social sciences discipline or be enrolled in an accredited doctoral degree program and fulfill all degree requirements prior to program entry.
  • Strong data analysis skills
  • Prior experience conducting clinical or community based research related to physical activity promotion or sedentary behavior reduction, using digital health tools for data collection or intervention delivery and/or working with cancer survivors
  • Strong work ethic and commitment to becoming an independent scientist
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills and fluency in spoken and written English


This is a two-year full-time research based postdoctoral fellowship opportunity. Award of the second year is contingent upon performance in year one of the fellowship. Applications are now being accepted and will be reviewed until the position is filled. Stipends are at the NIH-level for postdoctoral trainees and fellows.

Application Procedure

To apply, please submit a cover letter, CV, list of 3 references and a brief (1-2 page) statement of research interests, experience, career goals and interest in the position to Dr. Siobhan Phillips (

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer of all protected classes, including veterans and individuals with disabilities. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply. Hiring is contingent upon eligibility to work in the United States.


To view a listing of publications, please visit Phillips’faculty profile.

Follow Preventive Medicine on