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Photo: Sofia Stridsman
Anna-Karin Lindqvist and Stina Rutberg, Senior Lecturers in Physiotherapy at Luleå University of Technology. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Active transportation can improve children’s health

Published: 26 November 2018

Technology and involvement will be used to motivate young people to increase their daily physical activity. Today, about half of Swedish children walk to school and to their activities. Through a multidisciplinary project funded by Vinnova, researchers at Luleå University of Technology hope that to increase that to 80 percent.

– In the past we have studied active school transportation, now we are going to focus on active transportation. Children who start walking and cycling to school continue to do so to a greater extent even in their spare time. Then we can really start talking about public health effects. Today, there is no corresponding research, so what we do is completely new, says Anna-Karin Lindqvist, Senior Lecturer in Physical Therapy at Luleå University of Technology.

The background to the funds now granted by Vinnova is a public health project in the municipality of Luleå, where Anna-Karin Lindqvist and Stina Rutberg, Senior Lecturer in Physical Therapy, worked to get children to walk or go by bike to school – both in the summer and winter. The health project was a success and led to two different awards.

A project with many perspectives

In the research, five out of six departments at Luleå University of Technology participate in order to cover everything from health to education, health economics, urban development and game development.

– An exciting perspective is health economics. We know that active transport is good for health, but what does it mean to society? We have just scratched a little on the surface, but can already see huge profits at the community level. This may eventually lead to a healthier population with higher quality of life and lower healthcare costs, says Anna-Karin Lindqvist.

Technology with a health promoting role

By empowerment – which means that children are co-creators of the solution – and gamification, can commitment and sustainability be created.

– From a health perspective, the screens can be seen as a threat. Screen time has increased and children are less physical active, but we focus on opportunities and want to use the technology in a health promoting manner.

– We have already used gamification in Luleå municipality's public health project in a successful way. It can be anything from collecting points to solving missions. We have also done a study on Pokémon Go to understand the mechanisms behind the success, and what we can use in our project. Our final goal of the research project is to develop an app to spread this on a larger scale. The fact that children lack physical activity is a worldwide problem, and our solution is global, Anna-Karin Lindqvist concludes.

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