Faculty Spotlight: Ashley Artese

Faculty Spotlight: Ashley Artese

Merging the Gym and the Clinic

Growing up practicing martial arts, Ashley Artese, Ph.D., loved movement and exercise. Now, it’s her goal to help others learn to love it too and better understand the benefits to their health.

As much as research points to the benefits of exercise and fitness, there’s still an underlying question of how to motivate people to exercise, said Artese, a new assistant professor of exercise science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. So, Artese’s research goals are to design and implement effective and sustainable interventions for improving outcomes like body composition and muscle mass in older adults, as well as breast cancer survivors.

She is currently working on a project that targets remote training for patients who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 once they are discharged home to promote recovery and improve their cardiorespiratory fitness, physical function, and quality of life. Prior to the intervention, patients go through a series of assessments to measure their aerobic capacity, muscle strength, functional performance, cognition and quality of life. After the assessments, Artese leads them through a remote 12-week exercise program, three days a week, which consists of high-intensity interval training, plus exercises to improve strength, mobility and balance.

Artese began martial arts at the age of 7, inspired by the action movie “Big Trouble in Little China” and the characters like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, both infused with martial arts, she said her dad was also very supportive of her marital arts and health. “I remember my dad would come home from work and then he’d go into his little home weight room,” she said. “He was always very dedicated and very consistent with his exercise, and I think that he instilled the idea of leading a healthy lifestyle.”

When it came time for college, Artese attended the College of William and Mary in Virginia and earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. While there, she started working for the department of campus recreation as a group exercise instructor and personal trainer, which launched her interest in group fitness and the fitness industry. But when she went home for her college summer break, the only gym that was hiring needed an instructor for older adults. After only having experience teaching college students, Artese said she was nervous and did a bunch of research on how to teach fitness to older adults. “It ended up being the best summer I ever had,” she said. “It piqued my interest more in the older and special populations.”

After William and Mary, she earned a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of South Carolina in 2010 and then a doctorate in exercise physiology from Florida State University. Prior to her appointment at FAU, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University in North Carolina at the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.

“I've always had FAU on my radar because they have a good exercise science department. I've seen what the students have done at conferences and the research that is going on in the department,” she said. “So, when I saw the job posted, I knew I was going to apply for this one.”

Artese said her research includes assessing and improving functional fitness in both older adults and cancer survivors. She is starting a new qualitative research project to explore breast cancer survivors’ perceptions of resistance training, such as what impacts their confidence to participate in resistance training, and what type of education or support they are getting from their doctors. In essence, “what are the reasons why they do or do not engage in resistance training,” she said.

Ultimately, she said, her goal is to create a greater connection between the fitness industry and exercise science research. “Fitness professionals are the boots on the ground,” she said, adding “when a cancer survivor or patient with diabetes walks into a gym, those fitness professionals are going to be the ones working with them. I think it's really important to focus my research on interventions that can be implemented into these facilities that serve a large number of people to ultimately provide evidence-based exercise programs for patients that expand beyond the clinical realm.”

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.