Science & Research News in Brief: Health campaigns promoting exercise a waste of money, research reveals

Stephen Gadd
November 6th, 2018

This article is more than 6 years old.

In other stories, descendants of Danish emigrants still speak the language in Argentina, Danes win gold for Mars medicine invention and Vikings ruled the waves through large quantities of tar

Exercise – we all know we should do more of it, but most of us are just too busy to fit it in (photo: pixnio/Amanda Mills)

Most people know by now that it is important to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise, but the number of overweight people in Denmark is growing – both amongst adults and children. A new PhD project carried out at the University of Copenhagen’s Saxo Institute focuses on how health initiatives can be better targeted to families with children.

In order to obtain data from both ends of the income spectrum, the research was based on interviews with families both in Hellerup and Husum. “Despite the two groups being so different, we detected the same pattern: there just wasn’t time or surplus energy during the chaotic day-to-day program to schedule in exercise,” PhD student Julie Bønnelycke told Videnskab.dk.

Dependent on social position
Whether people live a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle depends a lot on social standing, according to the Sundhedsstyrelsen health authority. The lower a person’s social standing, the higher the risk they have of living unhealthily and becoming ill. Deciding factors are the amount of education a person has, income, working conditions, living conditions and ethnicity.

According to Bønnelycke, you don’t gain much from focusing on a healthy lifestyle through campaigns designed to make the individual take more structured exercise. The solution is not immediately apparent, but Professor Jens Bangsbo from the University of Copenhagen’s department of nutrition, exercise and sports says that social structures are needed so that physical activity becomes a natural part of everyday life.

In Argentina they still speak Danish
A new research project carried out by linguistic researchers from the University of Copenhagen entitled ‘Danish voices in the Americas’ has revealed that the descendants of people who emigrated to Argentina at the end of the 1800s/beginning of the 1900s still speak almost fluent Danish. In addition, people who ended up in the US lost their ability to speak Danish in the course of one or two generations, but more people retained the language in Canada. The explanation seems to be that in Canada and Argentina, the immigrants lived in small local societies often centred around the Protestant Church, and that gave them a cohesion and social network that made speaking Danish relevant.

Children reverting to traditional gender patterns
The gap between the sexes is widening and children have a much more conservative view of gender roles and spend far too little time together, reveals a new survey carried out by the research organisation into young people, Center for Ungdomsstudier. “The problem is that boys and girls are hardly ever together when they have free time. Among other things this has something to do with the fact that girls stop going to out-of-school activities earlier, and boys focus an awful lot on the digital sphere,” the head of the centre, Søren Østergaard, told Kristeligt Dagblad. If this pattern continues, it could easily result in misunderstandings and #MeToo situations, Østergaard fears.

Danes win gold for Mars mission medicine case
A group of Danish students from the University of Copenhagen won a gold medal at the international iGEM competition in Boston in October for devising a medicine case to combat the effects of Martian gravity on bones and muscle tissue. The case is in effect a mini laboratory, full of intestinal bacteria that can be used to ‘grow’ medicine that the students hope will aid the astronauts on their mission. As well as producing medicine, the case can also clean medicine before use, thus alleviating the need to carry large stocks of medicine on board or waiting months for new supplies to be sent up from Earth.

Tar the secret of Viking maritime success, archaeologists claim
The reasons for the dominance of the Vikings that started in around 800 has long been discussed by archaeologists and researchers. Swedish archaeologists have put forward a theory that the secret was the production of tar on an industrial scale, reports Videnskab.dk. A number of large depressions found in Sweden in connection with roadworks have been investigated. The depressions date from 680-900 and have been used to produce large quantities of tar. Viking ships needed tar to make them watertight, and according to the archaeologists, some of the depressions could hold up to 300 litres, which would have been enough to caulk a whole fleet of ships.

New hereditary heart problem identified
Dutch and Danish researchers working at Denmark’s Technical University (DTU) have identified a hitherto-unknown hereditary syndrome affecting the rhythm of the heart. The condition was first noticed in a Danish family and has subsequently been discovered in four other families. In some cases the condition has led to sudden death. In order to identify the syndrome, genomic data has been taken from the families to map the genetic material. This has been done with the aid of the world’s largest supercomputer, Computerome, which is situated at DTU. The information can be used in future screenings to determine whether a patient is likely to develop the condition.

Universities appeal to Vestager over research publishing costs
A group of European universities, which including all eight of Denmark’s, have sent a letter of complaint to Margrethe Vestager in her capacity as EU Competition Commissioner in the hope of getting her to investigate the situation surrounding the publishing of scientific findings, reports Videnskab.dk. Every year, universities have to pay enormous sums to a very few publishers in order to gain access to the scientific articles their own researchers have been involved in writing. One of the biggest firms, Elsevier, earned around 4.8 billion kroner in 2010 with a profit margin of 36 percent. The hope is that Vestager will agree that this is monopolistic and take action on the universities’ behalf.


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