Other projects

Research at IPAN spans basic metabolism and physiology, through clinical and behavioural studies to community and population-based research. Here you'll find details of some of our key projects.

HAPPY (Healthy Active Preschool and Primary Years) Study

Led by Associate Professor Kylie Hesketh, this study initially examined physical activity and sedentary behaviours of children aged three to five years, with the aim of identifying influencing factors such as childcare/preschool policy and physical environments, neighbourhood characteristics, home environments, social factors and parental influences. The sample group was from preschools and long day care centres and from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.

Results showed that the children spent an average of 85% of their waking time being sedentary (sitting or standing still) and only 2.5% of children aged three to five years were meeting the national guideline of three hours of physical activity each day. Additionally, 63% of the children in the study exceeded the guideline of one hour or less of TV/screen-based entertainment each day.

The HAPPY study has been funded for two follow-up studies, which assessed the baseline cohort when they were aged six to eight years of age, and subsequently when children were aged nine to 11 years of age.

The first follow up examined changes in the physical activity and sedentary behaviour patterns of young children as they transitioned from preschool to primary school and influences on these changes. Results show that the amount of physical activity and television viewing preschool children engage in is associated with levels of these behaviours in their parents. However, once children are in primary school, associations are only seen with their sex-matched parent for television viewing.

The second follow-up of children at ages nine through 11 years is still underway. It aims to:

  • examine changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviour patterns from preschool through to upper primary school
  • identify preschool and early primary school determinants (child, family and neighbourhood characteristics) of low levels of physical activity and high sedentary behaviour in later primary school years
  • investigate how child, family and neighbourhood factors in the preschool and early primary school years interact to influence change in physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

The initial HAPPY study was funded by Deakin University. The HAPPY follow-up studies have been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) (DP110101434 & DP140100554).

Email the HAPPY Study


Led by Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon, Transform-Us! is an intervention that involved 20 primary schools, over 220 teachers and reached over 1600 children and parents. Over two and a half years, the program aimed to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behaviours through the following approaches:

  1. Teachers were provided with professional development to run classes that focused on physical activity and/or sedentary behaviours and improve students' current behaviours. Lessons focused on raising awareness, self-monitoring, goal setting (e.g. behavioural contracts) and social support (e.g. team-based activities at school; active homework to do with parents).
  2. Active curriculum strategies (standing lessons, short active breaks) were implemented and supporting equipment (standing easels, class lesson plans, standing lesson strategies, active break strategies) was supplied.
  3. Schools were provided with asphalt line markings, signage and sport and circus equipment to encourage physical activity during recess and lunch breaks.


After two-and-a-half years, children had significantly increased their physical activity at recess and lunchtime by 33 minutes per week and significantly reduced their sitting time by 196 minutes per week.

Preliminary cost analysis shows that Transform-Us! is a very low cost intervention, costing on average $30.08 per child per year ($0.08 per child per day).

The Transform-Us! study was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (ID533815) and a Diabetes Australia Research Trust (DART) grant. The contents of the published material are solely the responsibility of Deakin University and do not reflect the views of NHMRC.

SIT Study

The SIT study aims to understand what sitting behaviours are performed in the home setting, and what encourages and restricts these behaviours. This information will be used to create simple, feasible and family-friendly strategies to get people to sit less and move more at home.

Research suggests that too much time being sedentary (sitting) may impact the health of children and families. At home children have many opportunities to sit, but we don’t yet know exactly what behaviours they are doing (e.g. watching TV, playing on digital tablets, reading) and what would help them reduce their sitting (e.g. stranding desks, support information).

The SIT study asked 500 parents of children aged 8-16 years in Australia to complete an online survey. This survey asked about the behaviours performed at home, what promotes and restricts these behaviours, and what would help them to be more active and sit less. The findings from this study were used to create and test strategies to help improve health behaviours at home.

All participants received a $10 Woolworths e-voucher after completing the survey.

The SIT study was conducted according to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. It received ethical approval from Deakin University HEAG-H.


The NEighbourhood Activity in Youth (NEArbY) project aims to identify the features of a neighbourhood (around home and school) that influence an adolescent’s physical activity, sedentary behaviours, social engagement and eating habits.

Many factors can impact a healthy lifestyle, some less obviously than others.

However, there's not a lot of available information that assesses the importance of streetscapes, sporting facilities, public open spaces or urban design in promoting and supporting a young person's physical activity. Similarly, there's little information on whether access to healthy (or unhealthy) food influences their eating habits.

The NEArbY project sought to fill those information gaps. The study involved over 450 adolescents across 19 secondary schools in Melbourne. The schools were located in a diverse range of neighbourhoods based on walkability and average income.

Students completed a comprehensive survey and were fitted with activity monitors for a week. Most students also opted to be fitted with a GPS for a week and/or fitted with a monitor that assesses sitting time for seven days.

The NEArbY study is relevant to the health, planning, transport and infrastructure sectors and uses innovative research techniques to inform urban design and policy that supports healthy, active lifestyles among adolescents.

The study will also contribute to wider international research across nine diverse countries, allowing researchers to see if Australia is unique or consistent with international trends of youth and physical activity.

A two-year follow-up of students involved in the original study will take place in 2016 and 2017.

Contact us

Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN)
+61 3 9244 6613
Email IPAN
Twitter: @DeakinIPAN

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
Deakin University
221 Burwood Highway
Burwood Victoria 3125