Professor’s portrait: Health promotion and the two parallel missions that the Swedish sports movement is based on

Sport and exercise have always been a natural part of Eva-Carin Lindgren’s life. As a researcher, she has been interested in everything from health promotion among non-physically active adolescents, to how the Swedish sporting movement can be inclusive while creating sustainable opportunities for elite athletes.

“One track in my research is about health-promoting interventions aimed at children and young people. I want to know what makes children and youth physically active and what influences them to continue exercise or practicing sport.”

Eva-Carin Lindgren, Professor of Sport Science specialising in Health Promotion

After many years at the University of Gothenburg, Eva-Carin Lindgren has returned to her alma mater. Her relationship to Halmstad University began back in 1984 when she was on the Sports Education programme, in the same class as Janne Andersson, captain of the Swedish men’s national football team. In her doctoral thesis, she showed that there are individual, social, and structural factors that encourage and influence teenage girls and young women to remain participate in sport or exercise.

Based on her findings, she designed exercise programmes for non-physically active young women. The results were evident after just six months of regular exercise. One important reason for this was that the programme was based on empowering the participants, focusing on their own needs and interests.

A woman looking into the camera

Sports and exercise have always played a great part in Eva-Carin Lindgren’s life. For example, she has been among the best in orienteering. Today, she is a professor of Sport Science with a specialisation in health promotion at Halmstad University – and at Gothenburg University.

“The programme helped the girls feel that they were individuals who could exercise regularly. They felt a greater sense of physical confidence and less anxiety about what others would think about their skills and their bodies.”

This is one of several interventions where Eva-Carin Lindgren has combined her knowledge of health and physical activity with an interest in social issues.

Interdisciplinary research gives new perspectives

Eva-Carin Lindgren often works with researchers from other disciplines, as well as sports organisations, schools, and municipalities.

“My health promotion perspective requires me to go beyond theoretical perspectives or individual methods.”

Holistic and healthy sustainability

In an international research project, Eva-Carin Lindgren investigated sustainable coaching, where the assumption is that knowledge is constructed and developed in social processes through language. She studied 19 female football coaches at an elite or national level from Australia, Sweden, and four other western European countries. The focus was on the coaches’ learning in relation to development and career paths, and on their coaching strategies. The five female national team coaches from Sweden stuck out:

“The Swedish coaches were to a greater extent trying to create good, socially sustainable environments for national squad female football players.”

Joy is an important value

One project which Eva-Carin Lindgren has been working on in recent years concerns school pupils in Jönköping county. In order to improve the learning conditions and health of pupils, the Pulse for learning and health [PuLH] programme has introduced additional mandatory moderate to vigorous physical activity [MVPA] that lasts for 30 minutes three times a week. The Physical Education [PE] teachers used a child-centred coaching approach to support all pupils. Another aim has been to contribute to co-learning among the PE teachers and increase their knowledge of coaching, and how they can encourage all pupils to feel joy and enthusiasm about participating in MVPA activities. The study showed that MVPA activities are not a quick fix. But many pupils felt positive about PuLH, not at least because the PE teachers letting all pupils participate in decision-making regarding the choice of activities.

“They noticed that they felt good, felt stronger and calmer. I was very happy when I heard that!”

Text: Anna Vörös
Translation: Semantix
Photo: Dan Bergmark

About Eva-Carin Lindgren

Eva-Carin Lindgren was born in 1962 in Eskilstuna. She has a Bachelor’s in Sport Pedagogy and a Master's Degree in Pedagogy from Halmstad University. In 2002 she defended her thesis “Empowering young female athletes – a possible challenge to the male hegemony in sport: a descriptive and interventional study” at the University of Gothenburg. Between 2003 and 2010 she was a supervisor at the R&D unit at (what is now) Region Halland, in parallel with researching and teaching at Halmstad University. In 2012 she became an Associate Professor, and between 2011 and 2018 she was vice head of department and director of studies at the University of Gothenburg, where she was appointed Professor of Sports Sciences in 2017. In 2018 she was appointed Professor of Sports Sciences specialising in Health Promotion at Halmstad University.