Student & ECR spotlights – Meet Jelle Van Cauwenberg, exploring e-bikes’ contribution to active ageing

tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

In 2006 I graduated as a
Master in Physical Education (option Fitness and Health) at the Vrije
Universiteit Brussel. Eager to learn more about physical activity and health
and physical activity promotion, I continued my education attending the
European Master in Health and Physical Activity organized by a consortium of
European universities. I completed this European Master in 2008 and after two
years of working as a physical education teacher in a secondary school in
Brussels, I started a joint-PhD Vrije Universiteit Brussel – Universiteit Gent
under supervision of Prof. dr. Benedicte Deforche. The topic of my PhD focused
on the environmental determinants of physical activity among older adults.
Starting from October 2016, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher at the
Department of Public Health at Ghent University. In my postdoctoral project we
aim to examine the contribution of electric bicycles to active ageing.

would you briefly describe your current research to someone who is not familiar
with your field of work? What is your main research interest?


E-bikes enable cycling with
less physical effort, but e-biking is still    sufficiently
strenuous to provide health benefits. Therefore, e-bikes may be an interesting tool to stimulate active ageing. However,
despite e-bikes’ popularity, there is limited knowledge about whether or not
e-bike use leads to higher levels of cycling, mobility and social participation
among older adults. This gap of knowledge is what we aim to address during my
postdoctoral project. Besides my postdoctoral project, I am involved in several
projects examining the socio-ecological correlates of physical activity and
sedentary behavior across the life course. Within our research group, colleagues
are also working on other health behaviors, such as diet, sleep and alcohol use,
and we are also involved in teaching the principles of the Intervention Mapping
Protocol to students of the Master in Health Promotion.

are the main barriers you encounter when conducting research, or
what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

The most important issue I
have been struggling with in the past years is my time management. As a
postdoctoral researcher you are involved in several research projects of
colleagues and sometimes it is hard to find time to work on your own research
project. You have to switch between different projects, and at the end of the
day you may feel like you did not make any progress on your own work. Blocking
(half) days is really necessary to make some progress on my own research

could help you as an ECR to further develop in your current

I think it will be
important for me to attend courses and workshops focusing on new
(technological) advancements within our research domain or related domains.
Developments in related domains may be applicable to our specific research
questions and may provide inspiration for innovative research ideas.

do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition
and/or physical activity field?

This is hard to predict,
but I do believe that recent technological advancements (big data, virtual
reality, e-bikes, smart cities, etc.) will offer a variety of new opportunities
for physical activity research as well as promotion. This implies that our
research domain will become (even) more multidisciplinary and that we will have
to try to gain a basic understanding of these other disciplines.