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

Impact story

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.

Key facts

  • Deakin researchers have developed Transform-Us!, a free and easy way to implement a physical activity program for Victorian schools that supports children’s health and learning behaviours.
  • On a typical school day, Australian children spend more than two-thirds of their day sitting. There is evidence to suggest that prolonged sitting puts children at risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease later in life.
  • Transform-Us! reduces sitting throughout the day by incorporating movement, using innovative behavioural, educational and environmental strategies within classroom, school and home settings.
  • In 2018, with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and VicHealth, free access to Transform-Us! was made available to all Victoria primary schools.
  • 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 resources developed and the provision of professional development for teachers of students with a disability.

Changing delivery, not content

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.

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,’ Professor Salmon said. ‘It includes creating a supportive classroom 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 remain 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 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

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 1600 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, further funding 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.

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.’

'The State government has invested in taking action to promote children’s physical activity and reduce their sedentary time via the Active Schools Framework, recognising that it is important to establish healthy habits from a young age. Therefore, making moving normal rather than the exception should be a priority for schools.'

Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon

Grants and Funding

Transform-Us! recently secured a further five years of funding under the NHMRC Investigator Grant scheme. This will enable expansion into tertiary education, secondary schools and the development of further resources and professional development for teachers who have students with additional needs.

The original Transform-Us! trial was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant (2009-2013; APP533815) and a Diabetes Australia Research Trust grant. The scale-up of Transform-Us! across the state of Victoria is currently funded by a NHMRC Partnership Grant (APP1115708) and VicHealth. The extension of the program into the Bachelor of Education (Primary) at Deakin University and RMIT (led by Dr Natalie Lander in the School of Education at Deakin), into secondary schools and for children of all abilities is being funded by a NHMRC Leadership Level 2 Investigator grant (2020-2024; APP1176885).

The number of collaborators from government and non-government organisations supporting the scale-up of Transform-Us! has grown from six to 16 partners over a three-year period. These partners include: the Victorian Department of Education and Training, VicHealth, Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Victorian Principals Association, Independent Schools Victoria and Peak Phys Ed. It is also supported by Bluearth, the Achievement Program - Cancer Council Victoria, Catholic Education Melbourne, Municipal Association of Victoria Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victorian Department of Health & Human Services, Hawthorn Football Club, Sporting Schools, and DPV Health.

Collaboration

The research was undertaken by health experts from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) Deakin University in fields including physical activity and sedentary behaviour (Associate Professors Nicola Ridgers and Lisa Barnett; Professors Jo Salmon and Anna Timperio; Dr Lauren Arundell), implementation science (Dr Harriet Koorts), behavioural epidemiology (Dr Helen Brown), and education (Dr Natalie Lander).

Other researchers involved are Professor Adrian Bauman from the University of Sydney, Professor David Lubans from The University of Newcastle, Professor Chris Lonsdale and Dr Taren Sanders from Australian Catholic University.

Contact details

Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon
Director, Institute for Physical Activity