- Charles Sturt research looks at effect of aerobic exercise on sleep, appetite, and mental health
- Research was conducted in the Central West with 25 regional women over six weeks
- Women’s Health Week is held from Monday 5 to Sunday 11 September
A Charles Sturt University academic is hoping to shine a light on the importance of exercise to maintain and improve women’s health and sleep patterns during Women’s Health Week.
Senior Lecturer in Human Movement in the Charles Sturt School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences in Bathurst Dr Melissa Skein (pictured) has conducted research titled ‘The effect of 6-weeks aerobic exercise training on sleep, appetite, and mental health in middle-age women’.
Twenty-five women from the Central West participated in a six-week exercise-based intervention group. They were tested before and after the training, which included assessments of sleep, appetite hormones and eating behaviours, autonomic nervous system function, mental health, and exercise performance.
“As women approach mid-life (30 to 60 years of age), there are often competing demands for time such as work, social, and family commitments, leaving them time-poor and reducing the likelihood of attaining the recommended sleep durations,” Dr Skein said.
“This is worrisome as it has been shown that chronic sleep deprivation or restriction increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
“As we cannot fit more hours in the day, there needs to be more research understanding how we can improve what sleep we can get.
“This project was designed to provide regionally based women an opportunity to engage in an exercise program, while furthering knowledge on this research area to improve women’s health.”
Dr Skein hopes this research can be used to emphasise the importance of exercise for middle aged women.
The study showed that a six-week exercise program improved sleep duration and efficiency (relative time asleep during the night) and promoted an earlier bedtime.
Appetite responses and food cravings were improved and there were improvements in mental health and cardiac health.
At a local level, Dr Skein said the project reduced access barriers and allowed regional women to engage in community-based, supervised exercise at a local gym.
“The novel aspect of this study was the ability to explore these various health outcomes simultaneously rather than in their independently, providing the opportunity to understand how they interrelate and the exercise-induced mechanisms responsible,” she said.
“This design proved advantageous as many participants continued engaging with exercise at the gym or individually once the project finished.”
Dr Skein said it is crucial we recognise Women’s Heath Week, which runs from Monday 5 to Sunday 11 September, for a number of reasons.
“It is an opportunity to shed light on the issues and shortcomings that impact women’s health, such as access to health care and confidence to engage in conversations about health and wellbeing,” she said.
“It also provides a great platform for education about all things women’s health, both management of conditions, but also preventative measures, including the importance of exercise to maintain and improve both physical and mental health.
“Women’s Health Week can also be used to celebrate the wins, and the fantastic people in the community working and volunteering to improve women’s health.”
Dr Skein said universities and their communities should also use Women’s Health Week as an opportunity to start a conversation about how workplaces can support the improvement of wellbeing by creating a healthy work/life balance and supporting women’s health.
Drawing attention to research being conducted to improve women’s health gives people real-life examples of how their lives could be changed by what academics are doing.
“Education is empowering, and the communication of important research findings can be instrumental in assisting women in making positive choices about their health and wellbeing,” Dr Skein said.
“Drawing attention to research that provides that science behind these life and health-related choices can make all the difference.”