It is recognised that strength declines with age but can be maintained through exercise. Half of women over the age of 45 years old do not undertake any regular strength exercises.
Strength training is a low-cost exercise intervention that has a ‘powerful impact on women’s health’. It maintains function and independence as women age, and improves mood and sleep, maintains muscle and bone strength and helps maintain a healthy weight.
The project, delivered by Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre in partnership with Westfield Health, aims to create an accessible, co-designed app that helps to democratise the health benefits of strength training and meet the specific exercise needs of women in midlife.
The goal is to address a gap in existing wellbeing offers for women at work, by co-designing an app that will make it easier for women in midlife to improve their wellbeing by engaging in a personalised exercise programme. It will integrate behaviour change and exercise science to address major barriers and help women arrive at the ‘start line’ of later life in better health and with greater physical reserves.
Dr Anna Lowe, project lead at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Working women in midlife face a unique set of challenges including stress, burnout and musculoskeletal problems, all of which can be compounded by perimenopause. Work becomes challenging for many women in midlife and evidence suggest that many women consider leaving work at this time because of health-related issues. Exercise is a powerful way to manage symptoms and improve wellbeing, but it is often overlooked and under-used.
“We are delighted to be working with Westfield Health to explore the exercise needs of working women in midlife and to co-design an app that makes it easier for busy women to get the health benefits of exercise. Our overall aim is to help women to be happy, healthy and productive in the workplace for as long as they want to be.”
Kate Platts, Head of Research and Innovation at Westfield Health, said: “We are ambitious and determined in our desire to bring impactful, evidence-based health and wellbeing solutions into the workplace, and we are delighted to be working with the AWRC on this ground-breaking project. Targeted solutions for women in the workplace, especially those in midlife, are not always readily available to those who need and want them. An app that provides simple, yet powerful instructions related to strength-training for women is much-needed. Through this work we hope to support our female colleagues, customers, and communities in achieving a high-quality mid- and later life, enabling people to work healthily and happily for as long as they choose.”
Falls in later life are a major threat to healthy ageing and can lead to pain, injury and loss of independence. Falls also have a significant impact on health services, both immediate hospital care and long-term aftercare.
The 60+ age group is growing faster than any other age group, therefore it is anticipated that problems related to falls will increase. Research has found that women express more of fear of falling than men, and sustain more hip fractures from falls, but current approaches focus on older people who have had a fall or are at risk of falling.
The funding has been awarded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge. UKRI creates knowledge with impact by investing over £8bn a year in research and innovation through the UK’s nine leading funding councils.