Lecturer – Exercise and Wellness at UCOL, Suzanne Charles’ expertise lies in neurological rehabilitation. She is currently researching the importance of regular physical activity (PA) after experiencing depression as a result of concussion.
Shortly after winning the 2008 New Zealand Road National Championship, Charles faced an accident while cycling, suffering a concussion and other injuries that drastically impacted her health. Post recovery, she found she she wasn’t able to get back to cycling on the same level. “After that I felt a loss of identity and depressed moods, however; through this all, it was regular PA that helped a lot,” explains Charles.
Charles’ personal experience motivated the start of her research journey. She discovered there was very little published research based on the actual experiences of individuals taking part in PA while recovering from concussion. Charles also found that after experiencing a concussion, many fail to participate in physical activities, especially in sports that make up part of their self-identity (i.e. golfer, rugby player, cyclist, etc.). “The loss of ‘who they are’ relates to the famous self-discrepancy theory. Simply put, the more significant the ‘discrepancy’ is to your past self, the bigger the impact on self-esteem and mood state,” says Charles.
Her research work, which is due to be published soon, focuses on identity themes, depressed mood, motivation changes, and the transient nature of positive feelings from PA after a concussion.
Charles completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Exercise Physiology from UCOL and her Master’s of Health Science from Otago University. She’s a coffee fan and enjoys walking with her dogs. Charles absolutely loves snow skiing in the USA, particularly Colorado, and Utah, and makes it a point to visit every summer that she can.