Faculty Spotlight

Cheryl A. Lovelady

cheryl loveladyI received my undergraduate degree from California State University at Chico, Master’s in Public Health from University of California at Berkeley and PhD from University of California at Davis. When I graduated from UC Davis, I did a post doc looking at the effects of exercise on breast milk composition and wanted to continue work in that area.

I ended up at UNCG because I was interested in a faculty position and one became available here. I chose UNCG because I was able to continue in my area of research started during my post doc, there was a human performance lab available within the nutrition  department and I had lived in North Carolina before.My initial research interests were energy balance, energy intake and energy expenditure and how both contribute to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise and nutrition need to be considered together when recommending weight loss to overweight individuals.

When I arrived at UC Davis, there was only one faculty member working with human subjects, and they were breastfeeding mothers. At the time, doctors were telling mother’s that exercise would affect the volume of breast milk; therefore they should not exercise. However, there was no research to support this recommendation. I designed a research study, investigating the effects of exercise on lactation performance. We studied breastfeeding women, mostly competitive swimmers, who exercised 80 minutes a day and compared them with sedentary women. The findings supported our hypothesis that there was no effect of exercise on breast milk volume and composition compared to those who didn’t exercise.

My landmark research here at UNCG involved overweight, non-exercising, breastfeeding women. We found that through exercise and restriction of calories, these women could lose one pound per week safely without affecting the growth of the baby. There was no affect on breast milk volume and composition.

My research does not directly contribute to the body of knowledge of girls and women in sport as much as it does for physical activity. I believe that I have impacted health care recommendations with research supporting exercise for breastfeeding mothers with no affect on the growth of babies. These findings could extend to the sport component for those female athletes who are breastfeeding while training for competition.

Currently, I am investigating the effects of exercise on mother’s health beyond weight loss. We have found that resistance exercise improves bone mineral density during the first year postpartum. In our present study, we are looking at the metabolic syndrome, as well as inflammatory markers in overweight women. We hypothesize that exercise and weight loss during the postpartum period will favorably impact metabolic abnormalities and inflammatory markers in overweight and obese women.