Image of children playing outside

Transform-Us!  Moving and learning for long-term health 

The world-first program re-framing the way children learn by moving more and sitting less.

Developed by experts from Deakin’s Institute of Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN),  Transform-Us! is a whole-of-school approach to physical activity  promoting  movement throughout the day.

 This world-first program is designed to re-frame the way children learn by moving more and sitting less.  Currently available to all Victorian Primary Schools, it is the culmination of over 12 years of  Deakin University  research.   

Transform-Us! uses innovative behavioural, educational and environmental strategies to increase  children’s  movement and reduce sitting throughout the school day.   

The program has been developed  in alignment with the Australian and Victorian curriculum and provides online  professional development, full lesson plans, short videos and other supporting resources to all Victorian teachers and school leaders who register. 

Encouraging physical activity through changing delivery, not content  

Finding ways to incorporate  movement into everyday lessons –  so the delivery of the lesson changes, not the content  – is  integral to the program’s success. Lead researcher Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon  says,  “the program has been designed to make moving the norm throughout the day.

“It includes creating a supportive  class room  environment (e.g.,  making novel activity equipment readily available in the classroom),  incorporating Active Lessons  (e.g.,  active maths) and  Active Breaks  (e.g.,  stand and discuss lesson content) as a way of breaking up prolonged periods of sitting during class and to help  keep children  alert and focused.” 

Transform-Us!  also encourages teachers to include a standing or moving component within homework, such as completing reading homework standing up, or involving a family walk to complete a science  challenge. 

Increase activity, reduce sitting and risks to health  

In 2011–2012, the Australia Bureau of Statistics reported that only 9% of boys and 8% of girls aged 5–17 years in Australia meet both physical activity and sedentary guidelines every day. 

On  a typical school day, Australian children spend more than two-thirds of their day sitting.

There is evidence to suggest that prolonged sitting and sedentary behaviour puts children at risk of chronic diseases such as obesity,  Type 2  diabetes and heart disease  later in life.  

Regular physical activity can boost fitness, heart,  bone and mental health. It can also improve cognitive development and lead to better academic results.

As a  large  part  of a child’s day, school-based  programs  can play a significant role in  increasing physical activity levels in  all  children.   

“We need to  help  children  accumulate more  activity every day  and reduce their sitting  and we’ve shown that Transform-Us! can make quite a big impact,” says Professor Salmon. 

“Governments and policy-makers are starting to realise that we need to take action to reduce children’s sedentary time. Given the significant risk associated with too much sedentary time, we can’t afford to do nothing.” 

Trials show impressive results in Victorian primary schools 

Transform-Us! Is available to all Victorian primary schools, with over 900 teachers currently registered. Trials have revealed significant improvements in a number of health measurements.   

Transform-Us!  was originally tested in  a rigorous two-and-a-half-year  randomised controlled  trial in 20 primary schools across Melbourne with more than 220 teachers and 1,600 students.

The program offered a whole-of-school approach to moving more and sitting less, with full lesson plans and ideas that require minimal equipment  and teacher preparation.   

The trial  yielded impressive results including  a 62-minute reduction in sitting time per day compared to traditional lessons.

Results also showed  an  average  increase in  daily  physical activity  of five  minutes,  lower Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, and systolic blood pressure,  along with evidence of  higher vitamin D levels.   

In 2017,  with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and VicHealth saw Transform-Us! made available to every Victorian primary school to  access for free.

 To date,  Transform-Us! is in  more than  300  Victorian Primary  schools  and over 900  teachers  have signed up.  Transform-Us! recently secured a further five years of funding under the NHMRC Investigator Grant scheme.

Transform-Us!  will  expand into tertiary education  and  secondary schools  with  further resource s developed  and  the provision of  professional development for teachers  of  students with a disability.     

A Transform-Us! teacher from a regional Victorian primary school explains:  “We now look for opportunities in every lesson to move – whether that be brain breaks, standing lessons, going outside to learn in the fresh air…We have found students are so much more engaged in a lesson when they get the chance to move their bodies.”

Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon holds a Personal Chair and is Director of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. Check out this profile to learn more about her research.

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