Longitudinal research

The LOOK study has four main phases:

  1. The Primary School Phase (2005 - 2009)

  2. The Adolescent Phase (2009 - 2016)

  3. The Young Adult Phase (2022 - 2040)

  4. The Middle and Old Age Phase (2040 - )

Our cohort is 850 boys and girls who we studied longitudinally from ages 8 through to 16 years, and who we will study into later life.


The aim of the Primary School phase was to investigate relationships between physical activity and physical education on physiological and psychological health and development in young children. We also investigated the influence of primary school physical education on academic achievement and the role of the family and environment in creating opportunities for physical activity. 

Many contributions to the medical science literature have been made in areas of psychology,  pathology, bone health, cardiovascular and metabolic health, nutrition, obesity control, and motor learning.

Several methodological contributions have been made, especially in areas of measurement of body composition and weight status. Although measurements for the Primary and Adolescent phase have been completed there is still ongoing work examining these research questions. Indeed these measures will form the basis for investigations of the effect of early lifestyle on physical and psychological well-being in adulthood.

The immediate focus of LOOK work is to investigate the effect of lifestyle during childhood and adolescence on the health and wellbeing of the now young Australian adults

Research areas

Early research findings

In brief, strong evidence has emerged of a negative impact on the health and well-being of children of the 21st century when they are insufficiently physically active. To this end we demonstrated the importance of  well-designed physical education in primary schools, unfortunately found wanting in public primary schools, and participation in organised sport.

Some key findings: (extracted from our publications)

Effects of Physical Education:

  • Reduced the prevalence of overweight and obesity between grades 3 and 5

  • Reduced the prevalence of “at-risk” levels o LDL cholesterol between grades 2 and 6

  • Reduced the prevalence of insulin resistance (a risk factor of Type II diabetes) between grades 2 and 6

  • Improved scores in national numeracy and literacy (NAPLAN tests) between grades 3 and 5


Effects and Relationships of Physical Activity and obesity

  • Physical inactivity and overweight/obesity during childhood and adolescence increased prevalence of risk factors for Type II diabetes

  • Physical inactivity and overweight/obesity during childhood and adolescence increased prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease

  • Physical inactivity and overweight/obesity during childhood and adolescence impedes optimal development of bone health, especially in girls.

  • In general, the main driver of overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescence is physical inactivity; intake of dietary kilojoule intake, sugar and fat intake was not related to overweight and obesity. Fatter children did not consume more kilojoules, sugar or fat; the difference was that they were less physically active and more sedentary.

  • Body Mass Index is a misleading proxy for percent body fat in longitudinal studies of children and adolescents. In some age groups, increased BMI can actually coincide with decreased percentage of body fat.

  • Children who develop good eye hand coordination measured by ball handling skill are more likely to be physically active, participate in sport and to have a leaner body composition.

  • The higher the average fitness level of children in a particular school, the higher their average academic achievement (NAPLAN national assessments) of that school.

  • Extensive studies have also been carried out investigating the relationships between stress and depressive symptoms and early life cardiovascular function in our LOOK children and adolescents, these studies providing the basis for areas to be pursued in our adult phase.