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Physical Literacy and Activity Research

Photo from launch of UCRISE partnership with physical activity foundation The aim of our research is to improve the physical literacy of all Australians through physical education, sport, and community linkages. Physical literacy is distinct from sporting prowess, athleticism, cardiovascular fitness, or time spent being active, which are amongst a long list of positive outcomes produced by becoming physically literate from a young age.

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Hi, I’m Richard Keegan, 

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and I’m Assistant Professor here at 
the University of Canberra in Sport and Exercise 

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Psychology

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I teach the units on ‘Motor Control’ and ‘Sport 
and Performance Psychology’, as well as teaching  

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on the new master’s course on ‘High Performance  
Sport’. Physical literacy

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what does that mean, well imagine the
worlds of learning that open up to you when 

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you become more

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‘book literate’ and you can choose which 
books you read and explore entire 

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new worlds

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through being book literate. Same applies
to physical literacy where you can 

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choose which environments you wish to explore 
and what you wish to do and how you wish to 

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interact with the world 

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in the physical sense. Like reading,

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physical literacy is meant to be 
good for you and encourages

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a more productive lifestyle but 
it’s before the fitness and before the

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other outcome that we often talk about.
So it’s not the bit where your being 

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active in a gym in a leotard being shouted at 
by a personal trainer, 

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its way before that and its also

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much more movement context so

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using the stairs rather than the lift, 
doing a bit of gardening,

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choosing to walk an extra bus stop, 
anything where your simply being

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more active and moving more is 
physical activity

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and to achieve that we need to 
be physical literate first.

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Inactivity, sedentary lifestyles 
costs the Australian economy 

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an enormous amount of money 
$13.8 billion dollars a year

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and the reason for that is that 
just over half of Australian adults 

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are not getting enough physical activity 
and that’s the Australian Bureau of Statistics

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not me talking.

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The trend is similar in

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children so in 2007 the last survey we did

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69% of children between 2-16 managed 
to get enough

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activity to achieve health outcomes 
to stay healthy. 

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Most worrying of all that drops off with age.

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Between 9-13, 80% of boys and 71% of girls 

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met the criteria for being sufficiently 
active and once we hit 

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14 through 16, it’s only 64% of boys and 51% of girls,

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and it just keeps dropping as we approach 
adulthood, and people 

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become less and less active and then 
later on in life

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they become more and more ill. 
What does it really add up to, 

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how do we get to nearly $14bn dollars? 
Well, if you add up the cost of

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health care, insurance, loss productivity 
in the workplace 

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then of course premature deaths and the 
pay-outs from that, that’s where it all 

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comes from

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and it’s $14bn dollars per year, every year. 

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As risk factors go for becoming

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ill sedentary lifestyles is the 
fourth highest risk factor behind

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obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. 

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Separately, what that means is that you can be skinny

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and inactive and still become ill and 
that is an important point. 

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We want to try and produce the first generation 
of children who haven’t been told that sitting 

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still is good

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Instead we want to try to produce kids 
who stay with that

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instinct to move and be active and 
have fun and play.

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We want kids to feel the joy of interacting 
successfully with the world

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around them

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and not be fearful of picking up a ball

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or breaking out into a run, and so by 

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not stifling that instinct that all kids 
seem to have to play

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we feel that we might be onto something.
So if we educate our children 

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physically in physical education we should produce

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physical literacy. And that then leads to a 
lifestyle of being active or sporty or 

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whatever

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We don’t want PE to produce future world 
champions, we don’t want PE

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to necessarily to be doing all the work of 
making people physically fit, 

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those things can happen later when you’ve 
fallen in love with moving. 

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That’s the outcome for our research

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over the next couple of years and that’s 
what we’re currently working hard on. 

Physical literacy is a concept capturing:

  • the ability to move effectively;
  • the desire to move;
  • the perceptual abilities that support effective movement;
  • the confidence and assurance to attempt movement challenges; and
  • the subsequent ability to interact effectively with their environment and other people

Increasingly, everybody knows we need to be more physically active, and less sedentary, yet levels of physical inactivity are either rising or constant across the developed world. The University of Canberra Physical Literacy Research Group is looking for the link between knowing we need to move more, and actually doing it.

Projects

The LOOK study is a collaborative, multidisciplinary longitudinal study beginning in childhood and finishing in old age. Read more.

Getting Australia moving report outlines the reasons that the priority has to be getting children moving at an early age. Read more.

Improving physical literacy development in primary schools
This research program involves 3 randomized controlled trials in Melbourne, regional Victoria and Canberra. Read more.

Collaboration/Partnerships