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Today's children live shorter lives than their parents

Published: 20 February 2015

Today's children are expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. It is caused by inactivity, poor diet and diseases related to obesity. The use of smartphones or toads is one of the threats. Physiotherapist and PhD student Anna-Karin Lindqvist at Luleå University of Technology wants to use the new technology to get young people more physically active.

– The will must come from themselves and it has to function in their everyday lives, otherwise it will be an uphill struggle to reverse this ominous trend.

Sustainable change

Young people of today are probably the first generation where life expectancy will drop. Many behaviors are created during adolescence and follows the individual into adulthood. Only ten percent of girls and 15 percent of boys in the age of fifteen are coming up in the recommended sixty minutes activity per day.

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Anna-Karin Lindqvist choose to see the technology or screen time as a part of our lives and how it can be used to promote health. She has done studies on physical activity in which she allowed children and young people to be involved in the behavioral change.
– The technology is part of children's lives and we have to find interventions where they are involved, then it will be sustainable for the future.

School and parents are important

Her research shows that if young people encourage each other to be physically active, the activiteies are increasing. In the study, youngsters motivaded each other by SMS, and it turned out that the physical activity increased.
– The school play an incredibly important part and health promotion should be inserted in school activities. Evidence shows that physical activity is strongly linked to academic achievement, says Anna-Karin Lindqvist.

She hopes that her research will involve the schools more to promoth health and physical activity. She feels her mission is to explain the benefits of physical activity.

Parental support is also important for children and adolescents. In her study, children came up with tips on how parents can support children, such as "You can take us to places where we can be physically active" and "You can offer money to pay for the gym or jogging shoes".

– Children inherit the parents' level of activity, but what we discovered was that when kids are physically active it spills over to the parents and they also become more active. It was something new.

Feeling of success

The most powerful tool to initiate a change is the experience of success in the activity or to see others like "me" succeed. For example, if a child takes the bike to school and discovers that it works out very good, it is likely that the child takes the bike even the next day. Or if the girl next door cycle to school, then even "I" are inclined to cycle.

– If we take advantage of the childrens capacity, I feel a confidence in the future. Are we trying to  controlling them, it will not work out so well, says Anna-Karin Lindqvist.

In the future, Anna-Karin Lindqvist wants to study how the use of computer games can increase physical activity.

Anna-Karin Lindqvist

Anna-Karin Lindqvist, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 493986
Organisation: Physiotherapy, Division of Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Health Sciences

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