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Is physical activity in childhood and adolescence a key to lifelong health? I.Family investigates

15 July 2013 - I.Family project

Is physical activity in childhood and adolescence a key to lifelong health? If yes, do the longer, lighter days of summer make a difference? The longer, lighter days of summer provide more opportunities to be more active but do European youngsters take up these opportunities? 16,000 children and their families across Europe are being investigated by the I.Family Study to find out.

Angie Page of the University of Bristol, UK I.Family partner and lead on physical activity says:
“We have found from our previous work in the UK, using similar GPS technology to track activity that is being used in the I.Family Study, that time spent outdoors and associated physical activity is greater the more daylight there is available.
With measurements being taken throughout the year, the I.Family Study gives us the opportunity to investigate these seasonal factors in other countries where there is greater variation in available daylight and whether factors such as changes to the clocks in winter and summer in some countries impact on people’s behaviour.”

However, levels of physical activity are just one element being investigated by I.Family to assess the foundations of lifelong health. Food choice, sleep patterns, genetic & behavioural influences and family lifestyle are all under the spotlight.

Why is this multi-factorial and disciplinary approach vital?

The living environment, social conditions, economic pressures and family lifestyles have changed enormously over recent decades. Often both parents are working and the time spent together with their children is limited. Self-prepared meals from local ingredients made according to traditional recipes are replaced by fast and ready-made and foods. Concerns about safety on the streets, limited availability of supervised play spaces, exposure to TV programmes 24/7 and increased time playing computer games have pushed physical activity out of the daily lives of young people.

These changes profoundly affect children’s health, particularly those in the most vulnerable groups in our society.

16,000 children and their families are being studied by I.Family in 8 centres across Europe - Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden - to unravel the interplay between these complex lifestyle, behavioural and genetic factors.

Participants will complete paper and online questionnaires, interviews on relationships and health, undertake psychological tests and physical examinations, give biological samples and use accelerometers to measure physical activity.

Families are now being recruited across all 8 centres. Interviews and measurements have started at some schools, clinics and dedicated centres. Professional teams will continue gathering data for this major study until spring 2014

This information will be collated and analysed by the 8 study research centers with the added support of specialist centres focused on genetics, neuroimaging, epidemiology, consumer health behaviour, environmental factors, consumer awareness, ethical acceptability and policy.

The multi-disciplinary research of the I.Family Study will help unravel these factors, identify effective interventions and support policy development at European, national and local levels, enabling more families to make healthier choices.

The I.Family Study, funded by the European Commission Contract Number FP7 266044 (KBBE 2010-4), is coordinated by the University of Bremen and the Leibniz-Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology-BIPS GmbH, under the joint leadership of Professor Wolfgang Ahrens and Professor Iris Pigeot with Dr Alfonso Siani of ISA-CNR in Italy. 

 

Interviews are available with I.Family Co-ordinator Wolfgang Ahrens, and Principal Investigators of the Study & Cohort leads in 8 Study Centres (see below). Contact Rhonda Smith, Minerva on +44(0)7887-714957 to arrange interviews and for further media information.

Notes for Editors: 

1.      Full information on I.Family is available on the website www.ifamilystudy.eu where the project brochure can be viewed and downloaded. Click on the national flags to access information from each of the 8 cohort centres about their study arrangements in their native language and English.

2.      The I.Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 12 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries - Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.

3.      The study has two strategic objectives:

1)     to understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice

2)     develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents

The I.Family Study is re-assessing the families first engaged with the IDEFICS study when children were below 10 years of age now that they move into adolescence - the ‘tween’ years - identifying those families that have adopted a healthy approach to food and eating habits and those that have not. I. Family is adopting a holistic approach by also investigating the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that drive dietary behaviour as children journey towards adulthood. 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration
under grant agreement No 289699

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