During the last year of my undergraduate degree in exercise physiology, I became interested in researching dementia and cognitive impairment, especially a type of dementia called Lewy Body dementia, which my grandmother had.
It was a natural leap for me – investigating the power of exercise in populations with various stages of cognitive impairment. As an exercise physiologist, we like to prescribe specific exercise programs with tailored dosages to treat a variety of chronic conditions. This, in combination with my grandmother’s dementia diagnosis, inspired me to undertake new research into an area currently unexplored in the literature.
My PhD examines the effect of physical activity levels and exercise interventions on both individuals with mild cognitive impairment (a stage before dementia), and on individuals with Lew Body dementia, a complex and challenging dementia diagnosis.
I met my supervisor, Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh as she taught one of my undergraduate classes. I reviewed her research history, and knew her research in resistant training and exercise intervention in geriatric populations would be a good match for my own research interests.
There are always going to be hurdles throughout the degree – mainly related to time management, practising newly learnt skills and organising and collecting data effectively. But my supervisors are very knowledgeable, and they not only help me manage any challenges that arise but also to plan effectively to minimise future challenges. The very nature of working with human participants in a large clinical trial has prepared me to think on my feet and deal with unexpected events.
I’ve been given the opportunity to tutor and occasionally lecture as part of a postgraduate fellowship. It’s been a very enjoyable activity that runs in conjunction to my PhD, and I’ve been able to use the knowledge I gained in my undergraduate degree, as well as the clinical experience that I've gained during my PhD.