Healthy active living

Real-world solutions to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in the community.

Research focus

This domain focuses on real-world solutions to increase population levels of physical activity and consists of three research groups:

  • Physical activity and sedentary behaviour from infancy to young adulthood
  • Built and natural environments for healthy living
  • Worker health and stress.

Researchers in this domain come from a wide range of disciplines including: health promotion, education, public health, psychology, epidemiology, human movement and sports science, physiology and endocrinology of stress, musculoskeletal health, motor development, geography, and implementation science.

From pregnancy and early childhood to adulthood, researchers have expertise in:

  • Objective and self-report methods for assessing physical activity
  • Behavioural epidemiology and determinants of physical activity
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methods and
  • Real world ‘scalable’ interventions, including the use of e-health to promote physical activity.

Research projects

Creating tailored physical activity opportunities for vulnerable children through school and sport

One size does not fit all when it comes to physical activity for vulnerable children. Dr Emiliano Mazzoli is exploring ways to provide a more equitable approach.   

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Investigating activity patterns to optimise children’s health

A better understanding of the combined effect of children's movement behaviours throughout the day will lead to the development of new and effective ways to optimise their health.

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Understanding physical activity and sedentary behaviour of mothers and children from culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Dr Susan Paudel aims to discover more about mothers’ and children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour practices in South Asian communities.

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Interventions to get kids moving to optimise their heart health  

Professor Kylie Hesketh is using an early childhood family-based intervention to promote physical activity and active play, and to reduce sedentary behaviour, in children aged 0-3 years.  

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Helping families manage screen time for better social skills, quality of life and family functioning 

Dr Lauren Arundell's research aims to understand the impact that time spent using a variety of screen devices has on children’s wellbeing.

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Helping new mums beat postnatal depression

Associate Professor Megan Teychenne is developing a home-based health behaviour program, with the aim of reducing symptoms of postnatal depression.

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Research groups

  • Physical activity and sedentary behaviour from infancy to young adulthood

    Group leader: Dr Lauren Arundell

    Group members: Deakin Distinguished Professor Jo Salmon, Deakin Distinguished Professor Anna Timperio, Professor Lisa Barnett, Professor Kylie Hesketh, Professor Jenny Veitch, Associate Professor Harriet Koorts, Associate Professor Natalie Lander, Dr Ana Maria Contardo Ayala, Dr Paddy Dempsey, Dr Katherine Downing, Dr Emiliano Mazzoli, Dr Susan Paudel, Dr Shannon Sahlqvist, Dr Claudia Strugnell, Dr Simone Verswijveren, Dr Michael Wheeler

    The Physical activity and sedentary behaviour from infancy to young adulthood group focuses on understanding and influencing physical activity (including fundamental motor skills and physical literacy) and sedentary behaviour in the early years of life from infancy through to young adulthood. Health and wellbeing outcomes associated with these behaviours are also a priority, including cognitive development, musculoskeletal health, obesity, and other cardiometabolic risk factors. In particular, we focus on the key transitions during early childhood, into primary school, secondary school and school leavers.

    We design and test ‘real world interventions’ using cost-effective strategies that can be adopted by health, education, or other systems at scale. We work extensively with key stakeholders who represent all levels of government, non-government organisations, education sector, and parent groups. Our group has expertise in health promotion, public health, psychology, implementation science, behavioural epidemiology, human movement sciences, and musculoskeletal health.

    This group covers:

    • Physical activity and sedentary behaviour assessment, patterns and health
    • Understanding how physical activity behaviours change including key transition periods
    • Understanding the influences on physical activity and sedentary behaviour
    • Fundamental movement skills and physical literacy
    • Designing and evaluating programs in early childhood settings, schools, homes and communities to help children and adolescents be more active and less sedentary
    • Implementation and scale up of effective programs in populations.
  • Built and natural environments for healthy living

    Group members: Deakin Distinguished Professor Jo Salmon, Professor Lisa Barnett, Professor Jenny Veitch, Associate Professor Kristy Bolton, Dr Susan Paudel, Dr Shannon Sahlqvist, Dr Anne Turner, Dr Anthony Walsh

    The Built and natural environments for healthy living group focuses on understanding how the built and natural environments in which people live, work, learn and play can be designed to support opportunities for physical activity via incidental activity, active play, active transport, sport and recreational physical activity, and to shape individual food decisions.

    Elements of the built and natural environment we focus on include urban design and accessibility, community and retail food environments, streetscapes, park design, school grounds and play spaces.

    This group covers:

    • Understanding how neighbourhood attributes and urban design influence active transport and physical activity across the lifespan
    • Investigating the role of parks and greenspace in supporting healthy active living
    • Exploring school and play space design to optimise physical activity
    • Measuring and monitoring opportunities provided by community and retail environments to enable consumers to purchase and consume healthier food and beverages
    • Understanding how we can best empower and support communities to design and implement actions promoting healthy eating and physical activity
    • Determining the role of the environment on individual food and beverage behaviours
    • Evaluating the impact of environmental modifications on active living and food choices.
  • Worker health and stress

    Group leader: Dr Luana Main

    Group members: Professor Brad Aisbett, Professor David Dunstan, Associate Professor Natalie Lander, Dr Clint Miller, Dr Jamie Tait, Dr Anne Turner, Dr Anthony Walsh

    The Worker health and stress group focuses on understanding the behavioural, physiological, physical and psychological factors that contribute to workers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, and activity, both within and beyond their job.

    For many people, a particular challenge to their health is sedentary behaviour at work, or the impact that their work has on their physical activity outside their working hours. For these reasons, our research also focusses on workers’ physical activity and sedentary behaviour (including incidental activity), physically demanding tasks, formal exercise training, and engagement with leisure time activity including sport.

    This group covers:

    • Helping workers stay safe, and physically and mentally well to be able to perform at their best
    • Modifying sleep, work-rest schedules or training programs to benefit shift workers’ wellbeing.