ONE in four school-going children in Ireland has risk factors for heart disease, according to new research.
The worrying picture emerged as GAA stars lined out to set a fitness challenge for teenagers in a bid to get more youngsters to see the benefits of exercise.
Bryan Cullen, All-Ireland winning captain of the Dublin senior football team and Paul Flynn, current GAA football All-Star and Meath senior football captain, believe their devotion to fitness as children has contributed to their playing skills today.
Bryan 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. For me, being active when I was younger contributed enormously to my ability to play Gaelic football at intercounty level today. I am incredibly grateful to the coaches and teachers who placed an emphasis on physical fitness.”
They referred to research findings in the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study, showing a quarter of school- going children have poor aerobic fitness levels, weight problems or even high blood pressure.
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.
Secondary schools interested in participating in the national challenge are being encouraged to register online at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Friday January 18 to receive a registration pack with the fitness test audio on CD, and step-by-step guidelines of how to complete the programme successfully.
Speaking at the launch, Kevin Reilly, PE Teacher at Colaiste Na Hinse, Meath VEC, says, “In my view 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 and Science. “