From Down Under to Grand Forks


Mark Danes

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Education & Human Development


UND College of Education & Human Development hires international health and fitness scholar from South Australia

Formerly on the faculty at University of South Australia, Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., arrived in Grand Forks with his wife and three children in August to begin work as an associate professor in the Kinesiology & Public Health Education program at the University of North Dakota. He brings with him a vast body of knowledge about the benefits of exercise among young people.

While Tomkinson is not a stranger to the United States, he had not visited Grand Forks until he was invited to the UND College of Education & Human Development for interviews in June.

Why Grand Forks?

“UND has a remarkable Kinesiology & Public Health program, backed by solid resources, that is ready to undertake new investigations into issues regarding the physical fitness and activity levels in young people and how they relate to longevity and quality of life, ” said Tomkinson.

Tomkinson’s large body of research targets health the life-extending benefits exercise and activity to help people lead productive lives. He and his team recently conducted a randomized controlled study of 56 overweight adolescent boys that showed how physical exercise improved their self-esteem and confidence.

“I see a perfect fit at UND for the areas that I focus on with my research,” said Tomkinson. “We will be engaged in new research aimed at improving the exercise habits and health outcomes of young people in this region. We will also aim to work at the national level by assessing health and fitness trends and the benefits of regular exercise among different populations over time.”

In particular, Tomkinson is focused on the question of whether today’s young people are more fit than their parents or grandparents were when they were young. He has spent the past 10 years gathering historical fitness data on more than 75 million young people from 50 countries dating back to the 1850s. “By using novel mathematical techniques, my research was the first to conclusively show that young people’s aerobic fitness has declined worldwide by about 15 percent since about 1975,” added Tomkinson.

In 2013, his fitness research generated more than 760 international media stories and reached nearly 400 million people around the globe.

Most recently, Tomkinson served as a senior lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at the University of South Australia, where he earned his doctorate degree. He is the Chairman of Active Healthy Kids Australia and the Asia-Pacific lead for the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance. He was also the project director for the $1 million Anthropometric Survey of the Royal Australian Navy, where he and his team took body measurements of more than 1,300 sailors. He is was the chief lead investigator on Australia’s first “Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People” (2014) and the project director of the $1.2 million Australian Warfighter Anthropometric Survey.