GAA stars have helped kickstart a new drive to get youngsters to exercise amid concerns that one in four schoolchildren is at risk of heart disease.
Dublin stars Bryan Cullen and Paul Flynn believe their devotion to fitness as children has contributed to their playing skills today.
Cullen, who captained the Dubs to All-Ireland success in 2011, said: "Sport and fitness has always been part of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today unless I had exercised as a child."
The sporting heroes referred to findings in the Children's Sport Particip-ation and Physical Activity study, showing that a quarter of schoolgoing children have poor aerobic fitness levels, weight problems or even high blood pressure.
Now, as part of a drive to get first and second-year pupils to improve their fitness, they are urging schools to take part in the Aviva Schools' Fitness Challenge, an initiative developed by Dublin City University in conjunction with the Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance.
Speaking at the launch, Kevin Reilly, PE teacher at Colaiste Na Hinse, Meath VEC, said: "Physical education is critically important to the future health of every child, and should be prioritised and viewed as a subject as important as any academic subject like maths or science.
"Children need to recognise the importance of being regularly active at a young age and carry that fitness behaviour through to adulthood for the benefit of their future health."
Secondary schools interested in participating in the national challenge are being encouraged to register online at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Friday, January 18.