About Us


Small Steps for Big Changes is a lifestyle counselling program that can help people make lasting dietary and exercise changes in order to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.  The primary purpose of Small Steps for Big Changes is to help you make changes to your exercise and diet and to stick to these changes long-term.

Small Steps for Big Changes is a personalized, one-on-one, 3-week training and counselling program.  You will engage in exercise and one-on-one counselling sessions during these three weeks, and practice making changes at home throughout the 3 weeks. You will participate in various types of aerobic exercise, including exercise at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes, and interval exercise that involves alternating between bouts of up to 1 minute of brisk activity and 1 minute of light activity for 12-15 minutes.



Our Vision

Our vision is to help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in those at risk by providing an evidence-based behaviour-change lifestyle counselling program that is accessible to all people in the Okanagan.


The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was a landmark research study published in 2002 examining the impact of a lifestyle modification program on reducing participants’ risk of type 2 diabetes.  The DPP investigated whether an intensive 24-week lifestyle intervention and weight loss program as compared to treatment with metformin (an oral diabetes drug) could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.  Those receiving lifestyle intervention reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%, while those receiving metformin reduced their risk by 31%.  Countless research studies have since shown the DPP to be effective at lowering diabetes risk.  However, one downfall of long, intensive lifestyle programs is that they require a large time commitment which can be challenging to stick with over 24 weeks.

Dr. Mary Jung had a vision to develop a lifestyle program to reduce type 2 diabetes risk that could be delivered through brief counselling sessions. This brief intervention can help individuals make exercise and dietary lifestyle changes in a cost-effective and time-efficient way. Thus, Dr. Jung developed the Small Steps for Big Changes brief counselling program to help people make lasting dietary and exercise changes in order to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Small Steps for Big Changes was developed and first pilot tested in 2012 in a small sample of 32 adults with prediabetes to demonstrate the impact of exercise training and brief counselling.  Participants continued to regularly exercise and maintained their level of fitness 24 weeks after the brief intervention program.  The program was then tested under the strict conditions of a randomized controlled trial at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus to examine the effects of the Small Steps for Big Changes program up to one year after the brief intervention.  100 people at risk of type 2 diabetes took part in the program, which ended in 2016. Program participants, who were once inactive, were regularly exercising one year following the program and made reductions in other independent risk factors of type 2 diabetes.

The current vision for the Small Steps for Big Changes program is to make it accessible for everyone in Kelowna at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Small Steps for Big Changes is currently being offered outside of the university walls, in downtown Kelowna. It is being run at a local YMCA at no cost to participants.  As we move forward, we continue to strive to provide residents of the Okanagan with an effective, time-efficient, and free program to help make lasting lifestyle changes to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


The Small Steps for Big Changes Team

Primary Investigator:  Dr. Mary Jung

Dr. Mary Jung is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development at University of British Columbia, and a Michael Smith Foundation Health Research Scholar.  Mary’s passion is researching the self-regulation of health behaviours, primarily the promotion and adherence to physical activity and healthy diets in people living with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes. Dr. Jung directs the Diabetes Prevention Research Group and strives to see evidence-based lifestyle interventions implemented in the community to serve those in need.

Co-Investigator: Dr. Jon Little

Dr. Jonathan Little is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. In my lab, Exercise Metabolism and Inflammation Laboratory (EMIL), we combine all of these approaches to understand how the metabolic disruptions that characterize type 2 diabetes affect cellular inflammation and explore how different exercise and nutritional strategies can be used to reduce inflammation and improve overall cardiometabolic health.

Elena Ivanova, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Elena Ivanova completed a PhD in Clinical Psychology at McGill University. Elena’s interests are to integrate cognitive-behavioural techniques into community-based exercise interventions. She integrates psychological techniques in the programs in order to optimize their delivery in the community. Ultimately, Elena’s applied and research work aims to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for adults in the community.

Sean Locke, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Sean Locke completed his doctorate in the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan.  Here at UBC – Okanagan Campus, his main role is to help coordinate the Small Steps for Big Changes Program. His independent research program explores the unhelpful thoughts that we have when deciding to exercise.

Jodi Langley, B.kin.
Master’s of Science Student

Jodi is a first year Masters student with Dr. Mary Jung and Dr. Jonathan Little and completed her undergrad degree in Kinesiology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. She is now looking forward to engaging with individuals in the community and assisting in creating an effective program that reaches the target population.


Corliss Bean, PhD
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Corliss Bean completed her doctorate in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. As a post-doctoral fellow at UBC Okanagan, Corliss’ is working to evaluate the Small Steps for Big Changes program through understanding participants’ experiences throughout and beyond their participation in this community-based lifestyle counseling program for those with prediabetes.

Tineke Dineen
Research Coordinator

Megan MacPherson
PhD Candidate

Kaela Cranston
MSc Student

Alysson Hamilton
Medical student

Sami Al-Abduljabar
Medical Student

Emily Lewis
Undergraduate student

Alissa Smith
Undergraduate student




YMCA of Okanagan

#1011 – 505 Doyle Avenue

Kelowna, BC

V1Y 6V8