Irish Life Health has launched the 2018 Schools Fitness Challenge, the seventh year in which the challenge has been run.
Over 172,000 have taken part in the six-week challenge, including a record 30,831 in 2017.
The findings from last year revealed that 34 percent of girls and 41 percent of boys aged 16 don’t meet the minimum level of fitness needed for optimal heart health.
Such low levels of fitness can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
“We really can’t ignore the fact that more than a third of 16-year-olds in Ireland are now at risk of developing premature cardiovascular disease”, said Professor Niall Moyna, Head of the DCU School of Health and Human Performance
“The impact on their long-term health and our healthcare system is undeniable.”
“It’s important to remember though that this decline in fitness isn’t inevitable, and improvements can be made in a matter of weeks.”
Over 30,000 students participated in last year’s Schools Fitness Challenge, with first-year students seeing an average of 8 – 10 percent improvement in their fitness levels.
Some accusations have been leveled that the programme of beep test runs undertaken in the school, can contribute to the less fit children being shamed but it is actually in that group that the greatest improvements are being seen.
The key age group is that between 12 and 16 where the level of children who don’t meet the minimum fitness levels for good heart health rise from 19 percent to 41 percent in boys and from 8 percent to 34 percent in girls.
Olympian Thomas Barr was in Dublin to launch this year’s campaign and he sees the value in bringing the tests to as many schools as possible.
“The ability to run and move is good for you in many ways but it has become almost uncool among teens,” he said.
“Cardio exercise is amazing for your heart health, your wellbeing, keeping your weight at a healthy level and it boosts concentration at school.”
“It doesn’t take much work to see a real improvement and it would be great to see an even greater number taking part this year.”
“This is the biggest fitness study of its kind in Ireland and the third biggest in the world, something we are proud to be backing,” said Liz Rowen, Head of Marketing at Irish Life Health.
“We want to help PE teachers and schools to address the worrying trends in children’s fitness that we have seen.”
Image Credit Dan Sheridan, Inpho.ie