Victorian primary students on the move

Research news

19 September 2017

The Deakin-developed Transform-Us! primary school physical activity program is set to be introduced across the State.

Every Victorian primary school is being encouraged to sign up to a new online program, called Transform-Us!, which gives children more opportunities to move throughout the day – within the classroom, schoolyard and home settings.

Victoria’s Minister for Education, the Hon James Merlino MP, launched Transform-Us! at Dandenong West Primary School on September 13.

“Transform-Us! is a great initiative and will help schools meet the Education State target of a 20 per cent increase of students doing physical activity for an hour a day, five times a week, by 2025,” said Mr Merlino.

Transform-Us! was developed over many years by an international team of researchers led by Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon, Co-Director of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University. The program underwent a rigorous two-and-a-half-year trial from 2010-13 in 20 Melbourne primary schools, involving over 220 teachers and 1600 students.

Transform-Us! is based on the understanding that activities as simple as pinning worksheets to easels or walls, standing in a circle for a group discussion, or using playground line markings for lessons can make a significant difference to children’s activity levels over time.

The program achieved impressive results, including:

  • A 62-minute reduction in sitting time per day, compared to traditional lessons.
  • A 5-minute increase in moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
  • Lower Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference and systolic blood pressure and higher vitamin D levels.

The National Health and Medical Research Council and VicHealth have now funded a scale-up of the program to all Victorian primary schools.

Professor Salmon said Transform-Us! offers a low-cost, whole-of-school approach to physical activity, with online training and full lesson plans and ideas that require minimal equipment.

“The program has been designed to disrupt ‘traditional’ seated lessons in primary school and make moving the norm throughout the day,” she said.

“In the classroom, it includes both active lessons and ideas for active breaks that are a way of breaking up prolonged periods of sitting during class and a great way of keeping children alert and helping them to focus.

“Outside the classroom, it includes ideas to create an active environment that are as simple as providing children with access to physical activity equipment such as frisbees, hoola hoops, skipping ropes and balls that are ready in a tub in the classroom for when they come outside during recess and lunchtime.

“We are hoping that Transform-Us! will be adopted by at least 700 Victorian schools within the next five years. We have a wide range of mechanisms and 13 partners to help with implementation and dissemination.”

As to why we need to increase children’s activity levels, Jerril Rechter, CEO of VicHealth and funding partner of Transform-Us!, said currently around one in five Australian children aged 5-17 years meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. One quarter of Australian children aged 5-17 are overweight or obese.

“Children spend most of their waking hours at school and home, so finding ways that children can spend less time sitting and more time being active can support them to lead an active lifestyle,” said Ms Rechter.

Professor Salmon added: “We are trying to re-engineer opportunities for kids to be more active in a safe and healthy way. IPAN has a major focus on prevention, especially through providing children with a healthy start to life. This is one of the critical pillars for a lifetime of health.”

The teachers in the pilot study have been some of the biggest supporters of Transform-Us! They reported 85 per cent of students had greater concentration after an active break and 79 per cent of students improved time-on-task after an active lesson.

Anne-Maree Kliman, President of the Victorian Principals’ Association, said that Transform-Us! is aligned with the Victorian Curriculum.

“The Transform-Us! program is about creating an active and supportive environment to help children move more in class, such as active maths, and outside of class with active homework designed to get them moving with family at home.

“This is a program that children enjoy, but, most importantly, it is one that allows young children to develop lifelong habits and enjoyment for physical activity. It is not about being the best; it’s simply about being active and allowing for the development of positive behaviours and attitudes towards physical activity.”

Register for the Transform-Us program.

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