Research and Teaching of the Roots for Physically Active Lifestyle

RESEARCH: physical activity, motor development, motivation, physical education, behavior change. TEACHING: motor learning, basic exercise (perusliikunta), physical education, bachelor's and master's theses, supervision of PhD students, scientific writing

Arto Laukkanen

Docent | Senior lecturer | Qualified PE-teacher since 2010
Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences
University of Jyväskylä
Current research projectsTAITURIT (2021-2023) and ACTIVE FAMILY (2018-2020) 

Children - always on the move?

Recent scientific research has confirmed the finding many have noticed in everyday life: physical activity in children and youth has decreased from the level it used to be in the past. Children and youth definitely are not always on the move nowadays. Rather opposite, lifestyle is characterized as sedentary already in young children. Additionally, preliminary research shows that the amount of children with low level of motor competence (skills, coordination) has increased during the recent decades and there may be a universal decline in basic motor skills. Motor competence has been shown to associate with habitual physical activity and the relationship tend to strengthen along the childhood. A descending trend of motor competence in childhood may thus hypothesize a further decline of physical activity and increase of other health concerns in childhood and later in life.

Affecting roots for physically active lifestyle

Doctoral dissertation. My PhD study was conducted as part of a year-long randomized controlled trial “A family based tailored counseling to increase non-exercise physical activity in adults with a sedentary job and physical activity in their young children” (InPact). My main aim was to examine whether family-based counseling would be a feasible method to affect physical activity and gross motor development in 4-7-years-old children. The behavior change based on the concept of affecting parents to support more their children's physical activity in everyday life.
Post-doc research. Main line of my ongoing post-doctoral research is to deepen understanding about social interaction best enhancing physical activity in children and adolescents. Regarding the early and mid childhood (3-10-year-olds), the research focus is in the parent-child interaction. The parent-child interaction will be examined both cross-sectionally (Skilled Kids -project) and longitudinally (Active Family -project). Basically, the idea is to examine what are the correlates of physical activity parenting, how physical activity parenting practices and general parenting styles predict changes in children's physical activity behavior, and the other way around, how children's characteristics (e.g. physical activity, perceived competence, temperament) predict changes in the physical activity parenting. In contrast to previous research in the field, children's own voice forms essential part of the research. Interviews about the children's experiences of physical activity parenting are conducted and a developmentally appropriate metric measure for child perceived physical activity parenting will be developed.
Lastly, I have had an honour to be involved in PETALS intervention research project where I can broaden my social interaction research perspective to teacher-adolescent student relationships. My major effort is to develop, in collaboration with the PETALS-team, a social interaction training programme for physical education teachers for better enhancing their students' physical activity motivation, and in the end, leisure time physical activity. Secondly, I am involved in developing an observation system for detecting the motivational features in teachers' verbal communication.
Vision of the research. Social interactions in parent-child and teacher-student relationships have been identified as key factors in the process of shaping (un)healthy life habits. My research aims at identifying the key factors to focus on in efforts of supporting physical activity parenting and teacher-student interaction in physical education.

Peer-reviewed (A1) publications


Publications for professional communities and general public 


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