Professor David Dunstan

Head of the Physical Activity Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute

Professorial Fellow, Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, ACU

Behaviour, Environment and Cognition Research Program

Areas of expertise: His research focuses on the role of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the prevention and management of chronic diseases.

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2629-9568


Location: ACU Melbourne Campus

David’s research focuses on understanding the role of sedentary behaviour (too much sitting) in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. This includes: 1) development of laboratory experimental models for identifying the effects of sedentary behaviour on underlying mechanisms; 2) epidemiological investigations on the associations of sedentary behaviour with cardio-metabolic health risk biomarkers; and 3) real-world trials on the feasibility and impact of sedentary behaviour change interventions.

David is also the Head of the Physical Activity laboratory at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne and is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow.

He has published over 160 peer reviewed papers, including publications in high impact journals such as Circulation, Diabetes Care and Diabetologia. Over the past 15 years David has generated extensive media interest in his research including interviews with ABC Catalyst, 60 Minutes Australia, New Scientist, National Public Radio, Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times and the LA Times.

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Select publications

  1. Sudholz B, Contardo Ayala AM, Timperio A, David W. Dunstan DW, Conroy DE, Abbott G, Holland B, Arundell L, Salmon J. Height-adjustable desks and prompts to break-up classroom sitting in secondary school: impacts on adolescents’ sitting, and social and motivational factors. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 2020 (accepted for publication 7 April)
  2. Hadgraft NT, Winkler E, Climie RE, Grace MS, Romero L, Owen N, Dunstan DW, Healy G, Dempsey PC. Effects of sedentary behaviour interventions on biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk in adults: systematic review with meta-analyses. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2020. (Epub ahead of print: 2 April)
  3. Bailey DP, Withers TM, Goosey-Tolfrey VL, Dunstan DW, Leicht CA, Champion RB, Charlett OP, Coft L. Acute effects of breaking up prolonged sedentary time on cardiovascular disease risk markers in adults with paraplegia. Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2020. (accepted for publication 2 April)
  4. Biddle SJ, O'Connell SE, Davies M, Dunstan DW, Edwardson C, Esliger DW, Gray LJ, Yates T, Munir F. Reducing sitting at work: process evaluation of the SMArT Work (Stand More AT Work) intervention. Trials. 2020 (accepted for publication 1 April)
  5. Anstey, K. Hallgren M, Nguyen TTD, Owen N, Vancampfort D, Dunstan DW, Wallin P, Andersson G, Ekblom-Bak E. Associations of sedentary behavior in leisure and occupational contexts with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Preventive Medicine. 2020. (Accepted for publication 7 February)
  6. Healy GN, Goode AD, Abbott A, Burzic J, Clark B, Dunstan DW, Eakin EG, Frith M, Gilson ND, Gao L, Gunning L, Jetann J, LaMontagne AD, Lawler SP, Moodie M, Nguyen P, Owen N, Straker L, Timmins P, Ulyate L, Winkler EAH. Study protocol for The National Implementation Trial of the Web-Based BeUpstanding™ Program Supporting Workers To Sit Less and Move More: Single-arm repeated measures. JMIR Research Protocols. 2020 (accepted for publication 6 February).
  7. Munir F, Miller P, Biddle S, Davies M, Dunstan DW, Esliger D, Gray L, O'Connell S, Yates T, Edwardson C. A cost and cost-benefit analysis of the Stand More AT Work (SMArT Work) intervention. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020. (accepted for publication 6 February).
  8. Hallgren M, Nguyen TTD, Owen N, Vancampfort D, Smith L, Dunstan DW, Andersson G, Wallin P & Ekblom-Bak E. Associations of interruptions to leisure-time sedentary behaviour with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Translational Psychiatry. 2020 (accepted for publication 21 January)
  9. Verswijveren SJJM, Lamb KE, Leech R, Salmon J, Timperio A, Telford RM, McNarry MA, Mackintosh KA, Daly RM, Dunstan DW, Hume C, Cerin E, Olive LS, Ridgers ND. Activity accumulation and cardiometabolic risk in youth: A latent profile approach. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2020 (accepted for publication 9 January).
  10. Henson J, Edwardson CL, Celis-Morales CA, Davies MJ, Dunstan DW, Esliger DW, Gill JMR, Kazi A, Khunti K, King J, McCarthy M, Sattar N, Stensel DJ, Velayudhan L, Zaccardi F, Yates T. Predictors of the acute postprandial response to breaking up prolonged sitting. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2019 (accepted for publication 6 December).


  • National Health and Medical Research Council. Boosting Dementia Research Grants Scheme “Taking a whole of day approach to optimising activity to prevent dementia in people with type 2 diabetes” (Gardiner P, Dunstan D, Gray L, Owen N, Healy G, Comans T, Fjeldsoe B, Schaumberg M) $1,480,827.10 2020-2024 (APP1171759).
  • World Cancer Research Fund. “Preventing the adverse cardiometabolic consequences of allogeneic stem cell transplant with physical activity”. (Kingwell BK, La Gerche A, Dunstan DW, Avery S, Owen N, Howden E, Lynch BM) £349,985; 2019 -2022
  • GetAMoveOn Grant. ‘Rise and Recharge Collaboration’ (McNarry M, Dunstan D, Dempsey P, Owen N, Mackintosh K); £48,296.50; 2019.
  • National Institutes of Health. “Randomized trial to reduce sitting time and improve cardiometabolic health in obese older adults” Consultant (CI-A: Rosenberg D). $787,636 USD. 2018-2023.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council. Partnership Project “National implementation trial of an evidence-informed workplace sitting reduction intervention.” (Healy G, Eakin E, LaMontagne A, Moodie M, Straker L, Dunstan D, Owen N, Shilton T, Goode A, Gilson N) $615,952.25 2018-2020 (APP1149936).
  • A three arm cluster randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the SMArT Work & Life intervention for reducing daily sitting time in office workers. National Institute of Health Research Public Health Research. (CI-A Edwardson C) £905,133.90. Start date: 01/03/2018. 36 month project.

Accolades and awards

  • Top Ranked Vanguard Grant, National Heart Foundation (2014)
  • Identification of the therapeutic benefits of progressive resistance training in people with type 2 diabetes (Diabetes Care 2002; 2005; 2006)
  • Identification of detrimental associations between sedentary behaviour (including television viewing) and premature mortality (Circulation 2010) and cardio-metabolic biomarkers in adults (Diabetes Care 2004); first experimental evidence demonstrating an attenuation in postprandial glucose and insulin levels through the introduction of short activity breaks during prolonged sitting in overweight adults (Diabetes Care 2012).
  • Creator of the Lift for Life community-based strength program for Australians with or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes — research to practice initiative providing access to strength training throughout more than 60 facilities across Australia.
  • Highly cited epidemiological research reporting that sedentary behaviour is detrimentally associated with premature mortality and cardio-metabolic biomarkers has informed new guidelines/position stands of the UK Health Department, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Heart Foundation and the Preventative Health Task Force recommendations on the likely importance of reducing sedentary behaviour.
  • More than 60 invitations to speak and chair in international and national forums including: presentations at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions (2008), and presentations in Denmark, Slovenia, Finland and New Zealand. He also receives regular invitations to speak and chair nationally in the scientific meetings of Exercise Sports Science Australia, the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association, the Heart Foundation and the Australian Diabetes Society.
  • Young Tall Poppy Science Award – Victoria 2007.

Editorial roles

  • 2019 – Current
    Editorial Board, International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • 2012 – 2015
    Senior Associate Editor, Journal of Physical Activity and Health
  • 2007 - 2015
    Editorial Board, International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity


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