When awareness is not enough

swimmer (Image: Panthermedia)
Image: Panthermedia

FAU researchers investigate the key to an active lifestyle

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. However, many people struggle to find the motivation to get up and go running, cycling or swimming. Public awareness campaigns do not always get through to everyone. Capital4Health, a new international research group led by Prof. Dr. Alfred Rütten from FAU’s Chair of Sport Science, aims to change this.

‘The goal is not to start another awareness campaign but to change social structures,’ says Prof. Dr. Alfred Rütten, head of FAU’s Institute of Sport Science and Sport and its Physical Activity and Public Health division. ‘We are investigating how a transfer of knowledge and the connections between research, politics and practice should look in order to enable people in different living conditions to lead a healthy lifestyle.’

The FAU researchers are familiar with the problem. ‘Those who react to public awareness campaigns about the benefits of being active tend to be people with a higher level of education who are already keen on sport and exercise,’ says Prof. Dr. Rütten. ‘This leads to greater social inequality. We therefore need different strategies in order to reach those who we have not managed to reach so far.’ This includes people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds or those with an immigrant background.

An active lifestyle

Whether it is at nursery, during PE lessons at school, during professional training, at work or in a care home, how should workplaces, living situations and curricula be designed in a way that accommodates physical activity which benefits health? How can teachers encourage less motivated pupils to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives and make sure they are not left out? Or how can a single parent who works shifts still find time for an active lifestyle?

Dr. Annika Frahsa and Prof. Alfred Rütten from FAU's Institute of Sport Science and Sport want to help us find our motivation (Image: Erich Malter)
Dr. Annika Frahsa and Prof. Alfred Rütten from FAU’s Institute of Sport Science and Sport want to help us find our motivation (Image: Erich Malter)

The research group is made up of five sub-projects that are based in Bavaria and two interdisciplinary projects. While the sub-project Health.edu is focusing on promoting health through physical education lessons in schools, the PARC-ave sub-project is concentrating on encouraging a healthy lifestyle among people in professional training. ‘This sub-project asks: how can trainee nurses or mechatronics engineers, for example, move in a way that promotes health? How can the right structures for this be developed in the workplace?’ explains Dr. Annika Frahsa from the Chair of Sport Science who is leading the research group. In this sub-project FAU researchers are working with Audi and other partners.

A total of 22 researchers from Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the USA are involved in the international research project Capital4Health. This means that the FAU researchers are able to benefit from the expertise of colleagues in countries such as the Netherlands and Canada that are world leaders in prevention research and health promotion. ‘We expect that the international collaboration will mean a boost for the public health sector and prevention research in Germany,’ says Professor Rütten. ‘At the same time, we want to contribute our own research to the international scene and ensure that our research is state-of-the-art.’

Interdisciplinary and practice-orientated

In addition to their collaboration with international researchers, Rütten and Frahsa are also able to consult FAU specialists. In addition to the Chair of Sport and Sport Science, the Chair of Education in Sport and the Chair of Exercise and Health, the Chair of Pattern Recognition is also involved in the research group.

‘What is special about the project is that other relevant partners such as ministries, employer organisations, schools, and companies, as well as those affected, are involved right from the beginning,’ says Dr. Annika Frahsa. The researchers aim to use this approach to achieve results that can actually be put into practice – to work together to motivate people to permanently become more active in their daily lives and to get moving, without necessarily having to do more sport.

The international research group Capital4Health began working on 1 February 2015. FAU’s research is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total of 1.2. million euros for a period of three years.

Further information:

Dr. Annika Frahsa
Phone: +49 9131 8525006