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Wanted: non-sports lovers

Wanted: non-sports lovers

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

Sixteen European universities want to entice students to do sports

MAASTRICHT. How do you get students (and staff) up from their armchairs? How do you get them to do sports? This is going to be investigated by sixteen European universities from seven countries, including the UM, TU Eindhoven, RWTH Aachen (coordinator), and Imperial College London. The kick-off for this so-called Active Campus Europe Project in the main hall of the Limburg provincial government building was yesterday, with representatives from the sixteen institutes.

It was in this same hall where Mitterand, Kohl and Major put their signatures to the European Treaty 25 years ago. “You can’t find the word sports in the treaty,” says project leader Peter Lynen, from RWTH Aachen. “But that doesn't mean that it is unimportant. On the contrary, it contributes to a healthy life and it brings people together.”

Harm Hospers, vice rector of the UM, agrees. At the same time, Hospers admits that he belongs to the group who need the extra push: the non-sports lovers. “UM Sports has tried to get me moving, but so far that has been unsuccessful. I intend to jog to Aachen in two years’ time (where the final meeting will take place).”

Stef Kremers, professor of Prevention of Obesity, agrees with Hospers, although he is anxiously wondering if someone is taking notes. Kremers emphasises the importance of exercise and outlines how the ideas on this issue have changed over the past fifteen years. “It used to be all about sports, now it is primarily about exercising in daily life. You really don't need to participate in a boot camp, but stand up every now and again, don't spend whole days sitting at your desk, because that is the very thing that is damaging.”

That is why Kremers asks everyone to stand up (see photograph). He does the same with students in the lecture hall. Some sit down again quickly. Who? Indeed: Harm Hospers. With a smile: “I love life challenges.”

When it comes to exercising on the work floor, the UM already has a track record. For example, there has been the Health & Fitness Express for a number of years, in which departments can exercise in their office for fifteen minutes with one of UM Sports' instructors. More and more employees are participating, say researcher Inge Houkes and master's student Marieke Dettmann, who have carried out research on the subject.

How many students actually do sports at the UM? The exact figure is not known, but 30 per cent of them do have a sports membership card. UM Sports now wants honours students to investigate how many non-sports lovers there are in Maastricht and what students' needs and preferences are. The aim on the horizon: a healthy university, in the fields of exercising, eating and mental health.

The Active Campus Europe Project will run for two years, funded by an EU subsidy. Various speakers emphasise that the EU has never given such a large subsidy for a similar initiative. It turns out to be four hundred thousand euro. “Shockingly little actually,” was the comment in the corridors. “We are talking about sixteen universities, that will work together for two years. Scientists easily get a few hundred thousand euro for a single experiment.”



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