Research Group Physical Activity, Fitness and Health, Ghent University

5 May 2014

Take some time to meet the Research Group Physical Activity, Fitness and Health at the Ghent University.

(Picture) From left to right, top to bottom: Greet Cardon, Jelle Van Cauwenberg, Cedric Busschaert, Tom Deliens, Benedicte Deforche, Katrien De Cocker, Femke De Meester, Veerle Van Holle, Vera Verbestel, Veerle Dubuy, Charlene Veldeman, Delfien Van Dyck, Griet Vanwolleghem, Sara D’Haese, Lieze Mertens, Leen Haerens, Maïté Verloigne, Ariane Ghekiere, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Ann DeSmet, An De Meester, Sara De Lepeleere, Sofie Compernolle, Dorien Simons, Jolien Plaete

What is the name of your group?
Research Group Physical Activity, Fitness and Health

Where are you located?
Ghent University
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Movement and Sport Sciences 
Watersportlaan 2 
9000 Ghent

What is something interesting or unusual about your City/Town?
The history of Ghent begins in the year 630, when St Amandus chose the site of the confluence of the two rivers, the Lys and the Scheldt, to construct an abbey. Nearly 1400 years of history are still palpable in the city today: a medieval castle surrounded by a moat, an imposing cathedral, a belfry, three béguinages... Nowhere else does one find so much history per square meter than in the historical heart of Ghent. This is why Lonely Planet has called our city “Europe’s best kept secret” and the National Geographic Traveler Magazine has listed this city as the most authentic historic city in the world and full of life.

Who are the members of your group (name, degree(s), research focus)?

• Executive Committee

     •  Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, PhD - Professor 
     •  Greet Cardon, PhD - Professor
     •  Benedicte Deforche, PhD – Professor
     •  Katrien De Cocker, PhD – Post-doctorate
     •  Delfien Van Dyck, PhD – Post-doctorate
     •  Maïté Verloigne, PhD – Post-doctorate

•  28 PhD students

Tell us about the research conducted by your group.
Our research group has extensive expertise in research in patterns and determinants of physical activity and sedentary behavior in different target groups (toddlers, preschoolers, children, adolescents, adults, elderly, patients, obese children, … ) and in different settings (home, day care, school, work). Furthermore, the impact of the physical environment on physical activity in different age groups is widely studied by making use of questionnaires and more objective measurement methods (e.g., accelerometers, GIS). Our research group has also wide expertise in designing, developing, implementing and evaluating programs promoting physical activity and healthy living in different age groups. Besides the promotion of physical activity, we evaluate interventions to reduce and to regularly break up (interrupt) sedentary behavior. Our research group works closely together with the research groups “Biomechanics and motor learning” and “Didactics”, which are in the same department, and the Department of Public Health and we collaborate with many partners from all over the world and are higly involved in ISBNPA. We also collaborate with community partners, policymakers, and other institutions to achieve our goals.

Some of our key research projects:
‘ToyBox-study’ (Multifactorial evidence based approach using behavioural models in understanding and promoting fun, healthy food, play and policy for the prevention of obesity in early childhood) brings together a multidisciplinary team of 15 researchers from 10 countries across Europe aiming to build and evaluate a cost-effective kindergarten-based, family-involved intervention scheme to prevent obesity in early childhood, which could potentially be expanded on a pan-European scale.

‘The Energy-project’ is a cross-European project with the overall aim to develop a theory- and evidence based intervention program to promote healthy energy balance-related behaviors for the prevention of unnecessary weight gain in children.

‘The IPEN Study’ was launched to further the field by addressing underestimated associations of environmental correlates of physical activity due to the limited range of environments in any single country. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the IPEN Study will pool data from at least 14 countries, including Belgium (BEPAS project) to estimate strengths of association between detailed measures of the built environment and physical activity.

‘The 10.000 steps/day project’ aims to increase the day-to-day activity by encouraging people to use a step-counting pedometer to accumulate "incidental" physical activity as part of their everyday living.

‘SPOTLIGHT’ will systematically define the factors necessary for establishing effective health promotion approaches. Different levels in varying contexts will be taken into account - individual, family, organizational, and environments that can change behavior, lifestyles, and life skills to sustainably reduce obesogenic behaviors in an innovative way. By providing new perspectives on obesity prevention the project will support the development and implementation of effective obesity prevention approaches by local authorities, public health and other practitioners. These perspectives will maximize the use of state of the art knowledge and will help policy makers to invest necessary resources in the most effective long-term prevention efforts. In addition, it will provide a stimulus for health scientists to explore further study possibilities to reduce (the burden of) obesity and flatten the social gradient associated with it.

‘Project Levenslijn’ aims at the development of an evidence-based intervention to promote more and safer active commuting to school in primary schoolchildren. The main study of the project contains a randomized control trial to evaluate the effects of a multi-factorial intervention.

For more about our research and other projects, visit:  

What are some representative publications by your group that may be of special interest to ISBNPA's members?

De Bourdeaudhuij, I., te Velde, S., Brug, J., Due, P., Wind, M., Sandvik, C., Maes, L., Wolf, A., Perez Rodrigo, C., Yngve, A., Thorsdottir, I., Rasmussen, M., Elmadfa, I., Franchini, B., Klepp, K.I. (2008). Personal, social and environmental predictors of daily fruit and vegetable intake in 11 year old children in 9 European countries. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 62: 834-841.

Van Dyck D, Cerin E, Conway T, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Owen N, Kerr J, Cardon G, Frank LD, Saelens BE, Sallis JF. Perceived neighborhood environmental attributes associated with adults’ transport-related walking and cycling: Findings from the USA, Australia and Belgium. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012; 9: 70.

Van Dyck D, Cardon G, Deforche B, Sallis JF, Owen N, De Bourdeaudhuij I. Neighborhood SES and walkability are related to physical activity behavior in Belgian adults. Prev Med. 2010; 50: S74-S79.

De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Van Cauwenberghe, E., Spittaels, H., Oppert, JM., Brug, J., Lobstein, T., James, P., Maes, L. (2011) School-based interventions promoting physical activity and healthy eating in Europe: a systematic review within the HOPE project. Obesity review. 12(3): 205-216.

Van Cauwenberghe, E., Maes, L., Spittaels, H., van Lenthe, F.J., Brug, J., De Bourdeaudhuij, I. (2010) Effectiveness of school-based interventions in Europe to promote healthy nutrition in children and adolescents: systematic review of published and ‘grey’ literature. British Journal of Nutrition. 103(6): 781-97.

Cardon, G., Van Cauwenberghe, E., Labarque, V., Haerens, L., De Bourdeaudhuij, I. (2008) The contribution of preschool playground factors in explaining children’s physical activity during recess. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 5(1): 11.

De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Maes, L., De Henauw, S., De Vriendt, T., Moreno, L., Kersting, M., Sarri, K., Manios, Y., Widhalm, K., Sjöstrom, M., Ruiz, J., Haerens, L.; HELENA Study Group.(2010) Evaluation of a computer-tailored physical activity intervention in adolescents in six European countries: the Activ-O-Meter in the HELENA intervention study. J Adolesc Health. 46(5): 458-466.

De Cocker, K., van Uffelen, J., Brown, W. (2010) Associations between sitting time and weight in young adult Australian women. Prev Med. 51(5): 361-367.