Move more, sit less: How Transform-Us! can improve children’s health and learning

In a new year of a new decade, it’s a great time for a new approach to children’s learning. Evidence shows that active children have better brain and mental health.

In a new year of a new decade, it’s a great time for a new approach to children’s learning. Evidence shows that active children have better brain and mental health.  Yet Australian school children spend more than two-thirds of their school day sitting. A scientifically tested program – which is now available free to all Victorian primary schools – could change that.

The culmination of many years of research, Transform-Us! is a whole-of-school approach to physical activity which promotes movement throughout the day.

Transform-Us! uses innovative strategies within the classroom, school and home settings to get students moving more and sitting less, helping students learn better as well as improving their health and wellbeing.

Developed by an international team of researchers led by Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon at Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Transform-Us! is free to access and easy to implement.

Transform-Us! has been proven to improve student health outcomes, and is designed to align with the school curriculum,” Professor Salmon said.

She said in a Transform-Us! trial in 2010-2013 of more than 600 students, teachers reported that 85% of students had greater concentration after an active break, and 79% of children had greater time-on-task after a standing lesson.

One teacher from regional Victoria, reported that Transform-Us! had resulted in improved behaviour and focus in her students, as well as fewer behavioural issues in the classroom, which had subsequently decreased teacher workload.

The teacher said simple changes that involve teaching the usual curriculum in more active ways, such as active maths, and ‘active breaks’ after children have been sitting for a while had a positive impact, saying students are “more engaged in a lesson when they get a chance to move their bodies”.

Other elements of the program include:

  • Providing physical activity equipment, such as circus equipment, to children in the classroom;
  • Standing or height adjustable desks or easels, to give children the opportunity to stand and do their class work;
  • Playground line markings – a relatively cheap and effective way of getting children more active during recess and lunch breaks, or for class lessons; and
  • Active homework ideas and resources so that students can be active at home with their family while still learning, not just at school.

The Transform-Us! project recently secured a further five years of funding under the National Health and Medical Research Council scheme allowing it to expand into secondary schools and to develop further resources and professional development for teachers with students who have special needs. Transform-Us! is also part of the new Sporting Schools Plus funding scheme to assist schools to increase their students’ physical activity.

“Governments and policy-makers are starting to realise that we need to take action to reduce children’s sedentary time,” Professor Salmon said.

“Given the significant risks associated with too much sedentary time, we can’t afford to do nothing.

“Conversely, if we can help children meet the accepted physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day, it can reduce the risk of obesity, improve fitness and bone health, and increase academic performance.”

* Free registration, training, and resources are now available for Victorian primary schools and classroom teachers. Parents and teachers can visit Transform-Us! for more information. 


Click here for more information about Deakin IPAN’s research into physical activity and nutrition or follow us on Twitter @DeakinIPAN