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TV3 series 'Doctor In The House' features boy (12) with fitness level of an 80-year-old


Prof Niall Moyna

Prof Niall Moyna

Prof Niall Moyna

Overweight Irish children have the fitness levels of middle-aged people, a leading fitness expert has said.

And in a new hard-hitting TV3 series, Doctor In The House, Prof Niall Moyna tells the parents of one overweight 12-year-old boy he has the fitness level of an 80-year-old man.

But after an eight-week stint of healthy eating and exercise, Oisin Mahony shed almost two stone and raised his fitness levels by 41pc in only two months.


Prof Moyna, who features on the show's expert medical panel alongside Dr Nina Byrnes and Dr Sinead Beirne, said: "Many of our adolescents now have fitness levels that 50 and 60-year-old people have.

"Aerobic fitness is probably the best predictor of our overall health and there's a downward trend in fitness in children.

"In children who are inactive, sedentary and eating poor diet, we are seeing this trend that they are becoming extremely inactive and because of that they are unfit."

The first episode of the new series, which aims to show unhealthy households how to drastically alter their long-term health, follows the Mahony family, whose lifestyles have descended into one of takeaways in front of the TV and virtually no exercise.

After rigorous testing, the Mahonys, who are all carrying extra weight, find out that Dolores (51) has heart disease along with a possibility of pre-diabetes while David (55) not only has a fatty liver but narrowed arteries and an enlarged heart.

Prof Moyna tells them their son Oisin has extremely low fitness levels and is in the top 1pc range of Body Mass Index.

"If Oisin ran up a flight of stairs, he would be at his maximal effort at the top of the stairs," he said on the show.

"He has the fitness level of an 80-year-old man and he is 12 years of age. He is a walking time bomb."

But Prof Moyna, from the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, said Oisin showed that children are able to turn their lives around with some radical changes.


"His fitness was appalling, but lots of kids with Oisin's weight would have the same fitness level. The Mahonys are a lovely family and it was a wake-up call," he said, adding that the improvement in Oisin's fitness was "amazing".

"The good news is that the people who get the most benefit from this are the people who are the least fit and inactive.

"People think they have got to do 30 or 40 minutes exercise a day and be sweating, but the message I would give is do 10 minutes of walking every day for a few months - you really build up the minutes.

"People think you have to do strenuous exercise, but that is not the case at all."