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Physical Activity

Focused on the primary prevention of chronic diseases, specifically diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

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Professor David Dunstan

Baker Fellow and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow

Phone:+61 3 8532 1873

Latest Achievements

Top Ranked Vanguard Grant, National Heart Foundation (2014)

Identification of the therapeutic benefits of progressive resistance training in people with type 2 diabetes (Diabetes Care 2002; 2005; 2006)

Identification of detrimental associations between sedentary behaviour (including television viewing) and premature mortality (Circulation 2010) and cardio-metabolic biomarkers in adults (Diabetes Care 2004); first experimental evidence demonstrating an attenuation in postprandial glucose and insulin levels through the introduction of short activity breaks during prolonged sitting in overweight adults (Diabetes Care 2012).

Creator of the Lift for Life community-based strength program for Australians with or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes — research to practice initiative providing access to strength training throughout more than 60 facilities across Australia.

Highly cited epidemiological research reporting that sedentary behaviour is detrimentally associated with premature mortality and cardio-metabolic biomarkers has informed new guidelines/position stands of the UK Health Department, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Heart Foundation and the Preventative Health Task Force recommendations on the likely importance of reducing sedentary behaviour.

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Professor David Dunstan Baker Fellow and NHMRC Senior Research Fellow
We strive to contribute unique insights relevant to public health policy.

The Physical Activity Laboratory is concerned with the primary prevention of chronic diseases, specifically diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Our research deals with:

  • The health consequences of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours
  • The measurement and analysis of environmental, social and personal-level determinants of behavioral risk factors (e.g. television viewing, desk- and screen-bound work) and lack of physical activity.

The goal of our program is to contribute unique insights relevant to public health policy. We aim to identify environmental and social innovations that can increase physical activity and reduce sitting time.

The laboratory is building comprehensive scientific links between epidemiological evidence; clinical/experimental investigations; behavioural intervention trials on changing sitting time in real-world settings; and large-scale population studies of environment/behaviour relationships in key target settings such as workplaces and more recently, schools. This integration aims to provide much-needed evidence to inform new policy directions in public health in order to reduce Australia's disease burden from excessive sedentary time and physical inactivity.

Why focus on sitting time?

The ultimate goal of our program is to contribute unique insights relevant to public health policy. We aim to identify environmental and social innovations that can increase physical activity and reduce sitting time.

We work closely with the Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory to build comprehensive scientific links between epidemiological evidence; clinical/experimental investigations; behavioural intervention trials on changing sitting time in real-world settings; and large-scale population studies of environment/behaviour relationships in key target settings such as workplaces and more recently, schools.

This integration aims to provide much-needed evidence to inform new policy directions in public health to reduce Australia's disease burden from excessive sedentary time and physical inactivity.

Research focus

The program of studies on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health conducted by the Physical Activity Laboratory includes:

  • Cross-sectional and prospective epidemiologic observational studies.
  • Measurement development studies using state-of-the-art accelerometer and inclinometer devices.
  • Studies on the multiple levels of influence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, focused on understanding environmental determinants.
  • Field-based intervention trials on the feasibility and outcomes of changing physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
  • The ongoing refinement of conceptual models to integrate the evidence and explain multiple levels of influence on physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
  • Addressing research-translation implications.
  • Informing clinical practice and public health policy.

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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