In May, sports scientist Yolanda Demetriou took up the new BMK Endowed Chair for Active Mobility: Movement in Leisure and Everyday Life at the Institute of Sports Science at the University of Innsbruck. Together with numerous cooperation partners, she will develop new solutions for sustainable mobility at the interface of health, climate and economy.
Active mobility offers enormous potential for shaping a sustainable future. This refers to any form of locomotion that requires muscle power - the most common being walking and cycling. Especially in everyday life, new concepts can make a big difference here. Since May 20, 2023, the new BMK Endowed Professor for Active Mobility: Movement in Leisure and Everyday Life at the University of Innsbruck, Yolanda Demetriou, has been working on exactly what these concepts can look like.
The endowed professorship will be based at the Institute of Sports Science at the University of Innsbruck and will work very closely with experts from the Department of Intelligent Transport Systems around Markus Mailer and the Research Center for Tourism and Leisure around Mike Peters and Martin Schnitzer. Together, a research group will be established and a research program will be developed to explore the framework conditions for active mobility and its effects and to work on a sustainable change in mobility behavior.
Sustainable movement for health and climateDemetriou’s research focus is on promoting physical activity in children and adolescents, which is why the endowed professorship will also have a focus here. "We want to introduce people to an active and sustainable lifestyle at an early age if possible," Demetriou says. "That’s why our focus is primarily on children, young people and families, whose active mobility in everyday life and leisure should be promoted." Demetriou wants to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and thus protect both people’s health and the climate.
"Health and climate are two central and highly topical issues in our society," says Demetriou. "People’s behavior in their daily lives, but also in their leisure time and on vacation, can have a direct impact on both." Demetriou describes the potential of active mobility with an example: "A large proportion of the journeys we make every day have a distance of between 2.5 and 5.0 kilometers. Only 19% of these distances are actively traveled in Austria. Increasing active mobility in this area would lead to noticeably positive effects for our health and the climate."
Changing mobilityThe endowed professorship is endowed with around three million euros for the next five years. In addition to the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, it is also funded by the Province of Tyrol, the City of Innsbruck, the Tyrolean Chamber of Commerce and by a number of companies from the mobility and tourism sectors. The new professorship can build on studies conducted at the University of Innsbruck on the health, sociological and ecological as well as economic effects of physical activity behavior in everyday life and on the opportunities and challenges of changes in mobility behavior. In the medium term, a separate master’s program on Active Mobility will also be established at the University of Innsbruck.
"I am looking forward to building a broad network and bringing together experts on this topic from different scientific disciplines and sectors," says Demetriou. "Only together can we make a decisive contribution to changing mobility in the population."