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Starting early – Increasing young children’s physical activity

Associate Professor Hayley Christian, Institution: University of Western Australia

2015 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2016-2020


Physical activity is the predominant modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and one for which early intervention and prevention can yield major cardiovascular health benefit. The early environments children are exposed to significantly impact their future health trajectory.

I lead a multidisciplinary team of research staff and students on a program of research to develop, evaluate and translate strategies for improving young children’s current and future cardiovascular health. Three funded projects targeting the environments in which young children are exposed (home, neighbourhood, and childcare) underpin this research. First, we will identify and test strategies for creating supportive childcare environments for physical activity in the early years. The findings will inform best practice recommendations to promote physical activity and health in childcare settings in line with the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education & Care.

Second, we will investigate how the home and neighbourhood environment shapes early child physical activity and sedentary behaviours. This research will guide local planning policy to assist with the design of healthy homes and communities. Third, we will lead a project aimed at increasing children’s physical activity levels through identifying and testing intervention strategies to increase active play and walking with the family dog. These child-friendly cost-effective physical activity interventions will aid in the battle against childhood obesity.

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