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Dr Grant Tomkinson 

Position: Senior Lecturer Dr Grant Tomkinson
Division/Portfolio: Division of Health Sciences
School/Unit: School of Health Sciences
Campus: City East Campus
Office: C7-45
Telephone: +61 8 830 21407
Fax: +61 8 830 22766
Email: grant_dot_tomkinson_at_unisa_dot_edu_dot_au
URL for Business Card: http://people.unisa.edu.au/grant.tomkinson

Welcome to my homepage!

For as long as I can remember, I have been keen on sport and physical fitness. I was constantly training for general fitness and playing sport as a child, either formally with a club or informally with small groups of friends. I considered myself somewhat of an athlete when I was younger, and at my best, I competed at the national level in athletics.

It was this interest in sport and physical fitness which led me to where I am now. After finishing high school in 1994, I completed a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Science (Exercise Science) at UNSW in 1997. Moving to South Australia in 1998, I completed my Honours Degree in Applied Science (Human Movement) at UniSA, and then my Doctorate in Applied Science (Human Movement) in 2003. For my Doctorate, I examined temporal changes in the physical fitness of Australian and New Zealand children and adolescents. I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at UniSA, and am also the Associate Director of the Health and Use of Time (HUT) Research Group.

My main areas of research are (a) physical fitness and exercise, and (b) anthropometry, with my special interest in how the fitness of different populations has changed over time. Physical fitness is a fascinating area because people can be fit in different ways. They can be strong, or agile, or skilful, but not all fitness measures relate well to health. Overall, we know that general fitness is a good measure of health and people with low fitness are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as heart disease. The most important type of fitness for good health is “aerobic” fitness—the ability to perform prolonged and strenuous exercise.

When I started my research career, there was a lot of talk about children’s fitness. Some people were saying children’s fitness was declining and others that it had not changed at all. To help settle this debate, I collected as much historical fitness data on children as possible, and have brought together data on over 75 million children from 50 countries dating back to 1910. My research was the first to show that the aerobic fitness of children has declined worldwide since the mid-1970s. Today, children are about 15 percent less fit than their parents were when they were children. These changes are likely caused by increases in adiposity and broad social changes that have resulted in a “toxic” environment for exercise. The outcomes of this research are now helping researchers to explore workable strategies to help children to develop the fitness habits that will improve their long-term health.

Chance favours the prepared mind
Louis Pasteur

Links to other sites

Fitness: What can you do?

Health and Use of Time (HUT) Group

Sansom Institute for Health Research

Teaching interests

  • Pediatric exercise science
  • Exercise prescription
  • Resistance training
  • Anthropometry

I teach the following courses

HLTH 3011Exercise Prescription
HLTH 3021Resistance Training
(This course is not currently being taught)

Professional associations

Australian Society for Medical Research

Australian Technology Network Centre for Metabolic Fitness

European College of Sport Science

Healthy Development Adelaide

International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry

South Australian Cardiovascular Health Research Network



BAppSc(Hons) (UniSA)

PhD (UniSA)

Research interests

  • Temporal changes and geographic variability in the physical fitness, adiposity and physical activity of children and adults
  • Digital and physical anthropometry

Research publications

My publications on Google Scholar

Expertise for Media Contact

I am able to provide media comment in the following areas of expertise:

Discipline: Exercise Science

  • Temporal changes and geographic variability in physical fitness, adiposity and physical activity
  • Exercise programming and prescription for apparently healthy individuals of all ages
  • Digital and physical anthropometry, bilateral symmetry and performance correlates

Research Degree Supervisor

I am currently supervising three Doctoral students who are:
(a) examining the effectiveness of whey protein supplementation on muscular strength, body composition and molecular markers of muscular adaptation;
(b) examining the effectiveness of resistance training on strength, body composition, and self-concept in overweight and obese adolescent males; and
(c) developing and validating a pre-exercise musculoskeletal-function screening tool.

I am also supervising two Honours students who are:
(a) developing a global set of research priorities for child and adolescent physical activity and sedentary behaviours using a Delphi structured communication procedure; and
(b) quantifying the association between the second to fourth digit ratio and competitive rowing performance.

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