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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
(Grant Tomkinson is currently on leave - last day on leave is Sunday, 11 September 2016)

For as long as I can remember, I have been keen on physical fitness and sport, dating back to when I exercised for general fitness and played sport as a kid. I considered myself somewhat of an athlete when I was young, and at my best I won a few state championships in athletics. In the late 1990s when I learned that I was going to be a dad for the first time, I was keen to pursue research that combined my passion for fitness and sport with my goal of improving the long-term health of not only my children but all children. This is why my research has principally focused on the fitness, activity and adiposity of young people, with a special interest in how different populations have changed over time.

As you may know your fitness level is an important indicator of how healthy you are now and will be in the future. If you are generally unfit now then you are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life. While you can be fit in different ways, not all types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is aerobic fitness, which is your ability to exercise vigorously for a long time. I have long been fascinated by the question of whether today’s young people are fitter than their parents or grandparents were when they were young, and have spent the past decade or so gathering historical fitness data on over 75 million young people from 50 countries dating back to the mid-1800s trying to answer it. Using a systematic review strategy and novel mathematical techniques, my research was the first to conclusively show that young people’s aerobic fitness has declined worldwide since about 1975. Young people today are about 15 percent less aerobically fit than their parents were when they were young. And to make matters worse, it is likely that the largest declines have occurred in young people with low fitness. In 2013, my fitness research generated more than 760 international media stories and reached 400 million people, and I have been credited with bringing about the largest media story in the University of South Australia’s history.

I have earned a Bachelor of Sports Science (Exercise Science) degree from the University of New South Wales, and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) degree and a Doctorate (PhD) in Human Movement from the University of South Australia. I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia. I am the Chair of Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA), the Asia-Pacific Lead for the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA), the Project Director for the $1 million Anthropometric Survey of the Royal Australian Navy (ASRAN), and a Young Tall Poppy. I was the Chief Lead Investigator on Australia’s first Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People in 2014, and the Project Director on the $1.2 million Australian Warfighter Anthropometric Survey (AWAS).

Chance favours the prepared mind
Louis Pasteur

Links to other sites

Fitness: What can you do?

Is sport enough? Results from the Active Healthy Kids Australia 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People.

Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA)

Sansom Institute for Health Research (SIHR)

Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA)

Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA)

Teaching interests

  • Pediatric exercise science
  • Exercise prescription and delivery
  • Anthropometry and body composition
  • Exercise physiology

I teach the following courses

HLTH 3011Exercise Prescription
HLTH 2027Exercise Delivery
HLTH 3016Anthropometry and Body Image

Professional associations

Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA)

Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA)

Healthy Development Adelaide (HDA)

International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK)

South Australian Cardiovascular Health Research Network (SACHRN)



BAppSc(Hons) (UniSA)

PhD (UniSA)

Research interests

  • Time trends and current status of young people's physical fitness, activity and adiposity
  • 3D anthropometry, sports anthropometry, digit ratio and bilateral symmetry

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

  • Time trends and current status of young people's physical fitness, activity and adiposity
  • Australian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People
  • 3D anthropometry, sports anthropometry, digit ratio and bilateral symmetry
  • Exercise for apparently healthy individuals of all ages

Community Service

Organisation Name:   Active Healthy Kids Australia
Type of Organisation:   Professional organisation
Organisation URL:   http://www.activehealthykidsaustralia.com.au
Level of involvement:    Chair
Year from:   2014

Organisation Name:   Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance
Section:   Lead: Asia-Pacific
Type of Organisation:   Professional organisation
Organisation URL:   http://www.activehealthykids.org
Level of involvement:   Executive Committee member
Year from:   2014

Research Degree Supervisor

I am currently supervising four Doctoral students who are:
(a) examining the inter-relationships between fitness, body size/shape and fundamental movement skills as they relate to high-level junior basketball performance;
(b) examining the effects of military vehicle transit on the physical performance and musculoskeletal health of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel;
(c) surveying the body size and shape of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel to examine the differences between NZDF branches as well as the ergonomic implications; and
(d) examining international, regional and national time trends and variability in young people's health-related fitness.

I am also supervising two Honours students who are:
(a) examining the relationships between the digit ratio (the ratio of the length of the second and fourth fingers) and male basketball performance; and
(b) retrospectively examining the differences in the number and type of radiologist detected abnormalities between 2- and 3-projection shoulder radiographs in adults with acute shoulder pain or injury.

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