Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is not only im­por­tant for phys­i­cal health of chil­dren and young peo­ple in schools but also for their men­tal health, well­be­ing, and learn­ing abil­ity.

The Australian Education Reporter - - CONTENTS - EMMA DAVIES


THE Univer­sity of Canberra Pro­fes­sor Dick Telford has an im­pres­sive re­sume.

Pro­fes­sor Telford is a Pro­fes­so­rial Fel­low at the Re­search In­sti­tute for Sport and Ex­er­cise, an Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor at the Col­lege of Medicine, Bi­ol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment and is the run­ning coach of the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity.

He was the also the first sports sci­en­tist em­ployed by the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport and the 2017 ACT Se­nior Aus­tralian of the Year win­ner.

With more than 40 pub­lished peer re­viewed ar­ti­cles, Pro­fes­sor Telford is a renowned ex­pert on the ef­fects of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and ed­u­ca­tion of school chil­dren.

Pro­fes­sor Telford was the re­search di­rec­tor of the Life­style of Our Kids (LOOK) Study of 734 Aus­tralian chil­dren be­tween eight and 12, which found that the main dif­fer­ence be­tween lean and over­weight chil­dren was that lean chil­dren were more phys­i­cally ac­tive.

The LOOK study had two pur­poses; first to in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fect of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in pri­mary schools on the phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal health and growth of chil­dren, and se­condly, to look at phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and fit­ness’s role dur­ing early child­hood and ado­les­cence on qual­ity of life in mid­dle and old age.

“There’s go­ing to be around four bil­lion peo­ple over the age of 85 by the time these kids get to the age of 85 – that’s a lot of Aus­tralians,” Pro­fes­sor Telford said.

“Qual­ity of life in old age is a big is­sue now, but it’s go­ing to be huge in 50 years’ time.

“Not just eco­nom­i­cally but emo­tion­ally when peo­ple are try­ing to make do, liv­ing older and be­ing propped up by tech­nol­ogy.

“We want to see whether phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity makes an im­pact on that.

“We think it does but we have to show the gov­ern­ment that it would.”

The LOOK study formed the ba­sis for the Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion Phys­i­cal Lit­er­acy (PEPL) trial, which aimed to de­velop fit­ness and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion from an early age to im­prove the phys­i­cal lit­er­acy of pri­mary school aged chil­dren.

With ris­ing rates of obe­sity among chil­dren and youth, the trial was timely and high­lighted the need for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity as well as nu­tri­tional guide­lines.

“Based on our work, we know that en­ergy in and en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture are both go­ing to im­pact body com­po­si­tion and a crit­i­cal fac­tor is chil­dren be­ing able to balance en­ergy in and out,” Pro­fes­sor Telford said.

The LOOK study as­sessed 800 chil­dren, fol­low­ing them from age eight to 12.

Pro­fes­sor Telford said that while nu­tri­tion was an im­por­tant fac­tor, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity was ex­tremely im­por­tant.

“The kids who were be­com­ing leaner had bet­ter con­trol over their body com­po­si­tion, nat­u­rally healthy kids, and when we looked at the diet and the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity of the kids who were leaner they ac­tu­ally ate frac­tion­ally less su­gar, less fat and less calo­ries,” he said. “They ate no more.

“We con­cluded that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity was a very im­por­tant driver in main­tain­ing body com­po­si­tion in our kids.”

Although phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity was a driv­ing fac­tor, the im­pacts of nu­tri­tion can­not be over­looked.

The NSW Health Depart­ment re­cently told a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry that at least one in five school stu­dents were over­weight or obese, with only 28 per cent of chil­dren ad­e­quately ac­tive.

These fig­ures and ris­ing rates of obese chil­dren with as­so­ci­ated phys­i­cal and men­tal health is­sues are con­cern­ing.

A con­cen­trated ef­fort needs to be made to ad­dress nu­tri­tion and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in schools na­tion­wide.

Aus­tralian Coun­cil for Health, Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion and Recre­ation (ACHPER) na­tional ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ali­son Turner said that while nu­tri­tion was part of the Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum, ACHPER would sup­port fund­ing of a Na­tional Nu­tri­tional pro­gram for stu­dents to pro­vide pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment for teach­ers.

ACHPER played a role in cur­ricu­lum de­vel­op­ment, pub­lish­ing re­sources ma­te­ri­als and or­gan­ised and de­vel­oped pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment for teach­ers of health, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and sport.

The coun­cil worked with Na­tional Sport­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOS), the ASC and reached out to more than 9000 schools through­out Aus­tralia, ad­vo­cat­ing for qual­ity health, PE and sport be­ing a vi­tal com­po­nent in schools to de­velop stu­dent health and well­be­ing.

Re­cent data from the Ac­tive Health Kids As­so­ci­a­tion Na­tional Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity

re­port card suggested there needs to be a re­newed fo­cus on get­ting kids ac­tive and healthy, but the is­sue of obe­sity was com­plex and in­volved fam­i­lies, schools and com­mu­ni­ties.

“The Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion (ASC) in con­junc­tion with NSOS has of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties to be part of a health pro­mo­tion ini­tia­tive that ac­tu­ally ad­dresses some of these health is­sues,” Ms Turner said.

The $100 mil­lion Sport­ing Schools pro­gram was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, the ASC and about

30 NSOS.

The pro­gram was of­fered to more than

5000 schools in 2016 and reached more than 1 mil­lion stu­dents.

Sport­ing Schools broad­ened the tra­di­tional no­tion of sport to get more chil­dren in­volved and of­fered on­line re­sources, les­son plans and coaches to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion in be­fore and af­ter school sports.

The ini­tia­tive pro­vided grants to de­liver sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and to co-or­di­nate sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, coaches and teach­ers to de­liver pro­grams.

“It’s a re­ally great con­tri­bu­tion to stu­dent health and well­be­ing, but schools and teach­ers of­fer sus­tain­able op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to learn about health choices from an ed­uca­tive, strength-based point of view,” Ms Turner said.

“Sport­ing Schools and other pro­grams are en­gag­ing par­ent and com­mu­nity sup­port and of­fer chil­dren op­por­tu­ni­ties to build on that, but the ed­uca­tive value of a Health and Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum (with sport in­cluded) is go­ing to em­power stu­dents to make choices.”

The ASC was also re­spon­si­ble for the Clear­ing­house for Sport; a knowl­edge shar­ing ini­tia­tive which had shown com­pelling ev­i­dence that in­creased lev­els of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity could bring wide rang­ing health ben­e­fits that ex­tend be­yond the phys­i­cal.

“We found that with chil­dren who do not get proper phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in pri­mary schools, and that’s the ma­jor­ity of pub­lic pri­mary school chil­dren in Aus­tralia, go in to secondary school with higher lev­els of choles­terol, higher risk fac­tors for type two di­a­betes, and in­fe­rior bone de­vel­op­ment par­tic­u­larly in girls,” Pro­fes­sor Telford said.

“The real clincher we found, is that the chil­dren who spent more time in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion (60-90 min­utes more per week than the con­trol group) be­tween Year 3 and

6 ac­tu­ally im­proved their NAPLAN scores of around 10-13 points more than chil­dren who spent more time in the class­room.

“When we talked to the teach­ers in the PEPL study and the LOOK study, they ac­tu­ally said, even be­fore I gave them those re­sults, that the kids were con­cen­trat­ing bet­ter in class when they had com­pleted their phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion.”

Re­search showed chil­dren could spend less time on aca­demic learn­ing, and more time be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive dur­ing the school day, with­out af­fect­ing their aca­demic success or progress.

The re­sults may be due to the spe­cific way in which the phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes ended.

The Blue Earth Foun­da­tion, which sup­plied phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams to schools, sat the chil­dren down for a quiet pe­riod of re­flec­tion af­ter the ac­tiv­i­ties.

The stu­dents would then go back to class hav­ing cooled down and were men­tally pre­pared for more class­work.

With abun­dant re­search from Pro­fes­sor Telford and his team show­ing the cor­re­la­tion be­tween phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and im­proved learn­ing, it seemed un­usual that there was no manda­tory re­quire­ment of sport and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in schools across Aus­tralia or a Na­tional Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity Strat­egy.

Some States and Ter­ri­to­ries have more re­quired hours of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion than oth­ers, with the av­er­age around two hours per week.

“Around the States there is a wide vari­a­tion of the hours of health, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, sport and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity,” Ms Turner said.

“Lo­cal sup­port for qual­ity phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion through the em­ploy­ment of Physed spe­cial­ist teach­ers and also the pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment for class­room teach­ers to de­liver the cur­rent HPE cur­ricu­lum vary.”

In March, the na­tional fo­rum for health and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion (HPE) cur­ricu­lum was held in Bris­bane and dis­cus­sions were held on stages of de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion na­tion­ally and across a State and Ter­ri­tory con­text.

“ACHPER work on a na­tional ba­sis to ad­vo­cate for the Aus­tralian cur­ricu­lum but it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that the States and Ter­ri­to­ries are re­spon­si­ble for im­ple­ment­ing in the lo­cal con­text,” Ms Turner said.

Pro­fes­sor Telford was not too con­cerned about the dif­fer­ent ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems around the coun­try as long as kids were phys­i­cally ac­tive.

“Peo­ple have got to un­der­stand the real value of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion,” Pro­fes­sor Telford said.

“40-50 per cent of kids are deemed to be over­weight for their age and a lot of them aren’t eat­ing enough fruits and veg­eta­bles.

“What we’ve got to do now get chil­dren in­volved in qual­ity phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in pri­mary schools.”

An­other as­pect of the LOOK study Pro­fes­sor Telford had not yet widely pub­li­cised, was that all the af­fects in chil­drens’ health and fit­ness came about with­out an over­all in­crease in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity ha­bit­u­ally dur­ing the week – they sim­ply got two ses­sions of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion ev­ery week at school.

“Just do­ing phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion twice a week, where the kids are hav­ing fun and play­ing games and learn­ing for two lots of forty five minute ses­sions each week for 30 weeks dur­ing the year over the four year trial pro­duced these re­sults, “he said.

Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity could im­prove cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing, mem­ory, con­cen­tra­tion, be­hav­iour and aca­demic achieve­ment, while in­ac­tiv­ity could neg­a­tively im­pact brain health, in­hi­bi­tion, work­ing mem­ory and cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity (multi-task­ing), which is con­sid­ered vi­tal to success at school, work and through­out life.

The LOOK study was the only four year global ran­domised con­trol trial that looked at all the fac­tors and Pro­fes­sor Telford be­lieved it was pow­er­ful in­for­ma­tion to go to politi­cians with.

Rather than bur­den the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem by adding an ex­pen­sive ex­tra phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher in ev­ery school, Pro­fes­sor Telford and his team tri­alled putting a phys­i­cal lit­er­acy coach in a group of eight schools, which so far had the same ef­fect as an ad­di­tional spe­cial­ist phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher would.

“This phys­i­cal lit­er­acy coach coaches the class­room teach­ers to teach phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion bet­ter and we want to see if by pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment of the teach­ers, can we bring up the stan­dard of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion to ap­proach what we found in the LOOK study,” Pro­fes­sor Telford said.

The role of the coach was to mo­ti­vate and pro­fes­sion­ally de­velop teach­ers to be more ef­fec­tive in their phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, to make ef­fec­tive links with the Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion (ASC) Sport­ing Schools and com­mu­nity sport, as well as en­gage with prin­ci­pals and school staff to de­velop a so­cial cli­mate with phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity well and truly in the mid­dle.

Pro­fes­sor Telford was cur­rently run­ning a phys­i­cal lit­er­acy coach trial in Gee­long, and if it pro­duced good re­sults, he planned to take it to the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment who have the op­tion of rolling out the phys­i­cal lit­er­acy pro­gram through­out Vic­to­ria, with the hope it ap­pealed to other States around the coun­try.

“That’s how we can solve the is­sue of obe­sity, by con­cen­trat­ing on kids en­joy­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and de­vel­op­ing a much more phys­i­cally ac­tive life­style be­cause they en­joy it,” he said.

“We talk about this as be­ing a phys­i­cally lit­er­ate child.”


The Look study in­ves­ti­gates the ef­fects of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in young Aus­tralians.

2017 ACT Se­nior Aus­tralian of the Year Pro­fes­sor Dick Telford.

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