How to stimulate children with lower physical activity rates to exercise more? A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and University Medical Center Utrecht (The Julius Center) is dedicated in finding the answers.
Vital@2040 is one of the research projects within the Vitality Academy. The aim of the project is to develop and evaluate interventions that increase physical activity amongst groups of children with lower activity rates. The research will take place in a ‘living laboratory’, which means that the researchers observe and analyze practices in three neighborhoods in the Netherlands. They work together with children, parents, local professionals and organizations such as schools, sports clubs and welfare organizations.
Step one in their research is to carry out a needs assessment in each living lab. Based on analysis of current interventions, policy documents and group interviews with stakeholders the target group and target behavior will be specified. Second, researchers and professionals will form a working group, which together will decide whether to evaluate and modify a current intervention or to design and evaluate new interventions. This decision also determines the next steps in the research project.
Interventions aimed at promoting physical activity will be most effective when they operate on multiple levels. Therefore, researchers at Vital@2040 design and evaluate interventions at four different levels:
Lonneke van Leeuwen (The Julius Center, UMC Utrecht) investigates which psychosocial factors, such as skills or perceived barriers and norms, within children and their parents are related to (a lack of) physical activity. Influencing the relevant psychosocial factors in favor of physical activity can then be the goal of one or more interventions.
Anne Annink (Utrecht University) investigates how formal and informal institutions support or hinder physical activity among children. How do assumptions in (inter)national and local policy documents, and socio-cultural assumptions of organizations in the Living Labs about what a physically active lifestyle should look like, influence the actual behavior of children?
Daphne Menheere (Eindhoven University of Technology) examines how to organize the social and physical space in such a way that a physically active lifestyle is tempting for all children. Technical developments can (unconsciously) stimulate physical activity.
Ayla Schwarz (Wageningen University & Research) focusses on how health behavior change can be facilitated via digital technologies. To reach vulnerable groups and decrease health inequalities in leisure time physical activity, the interaction between the target group and the environment is central. The aim of behavior change is combined with the use of technology, in so-called context-aware interventions.