Aviva Health Insurance recently announced the preliminary bleep test results for the Schools Fitness Challenge 2013 – a national challenge for 1st and 2nd year pupils to improve their health and fitness levels.
In total, 227 schools signed up to the Schools’ Fitness Challenge in January, and the results of the initial bleep test show that school-going children in Tipperary have the 2nd highest fitness levels in the country. The results also show that Cavan has some the best fitness levels with Kerry and Donegal coming 3rd and 4th respectively.
Since the beginning of February, all participating schools have commenced a six-week training programme to improve their initial bleep test results in a bid to win the Schools Fitness Challenge 2013.
Currently, almost 15,000 1st and 2nd year students (7158 girls, 7702 boys) and 710 classes across Ireland are taking part in the challenge. Results from the initial bleep test show significant differences in fitness levels between boys and girls, with boys coming out on top. Boys are 44% fitter than girls.
Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge was launched on foot of recent research that shows that one quarter or 25% of school-going children in Ireland have risk factors for heart disease, such as poor aerobic fitness levels, being overweight or obese and having high blood pressure.1
Commenting on the initial fitness test results Dr Sarah Kelly, exercise physiologist and advocate of the national challenge, said, “We are delighted with the uptake. Almost 15000 kids (710 classes) are taking part in the fitness challenge. In addition to improving their fitness levels, we also believe that the challenge will create an awareness of the important role that exercise can play in improving their physical and mental health. Children who are physically active are also more likely to be active later in life. The total number of shuttles completed by 2nd year boys is slightly higher than 1st year boys. However, there was no difference in the total number of shuttles completed between 1st and 2nd year girls. There is a large difference in fitness levels between boys and girls. This is an unexpected finding as we expected fitness levels to be similar in boys and girls of this age. Hopefully the gap will narrow between boys and girls and both groups will improve after 6 weeks of training”.
Dr Kelly also added “Although we are above the European averages, the fitness levels of European children are extremely low therefore we need to develop age and gender appropriate norms for Irish children”.
Fitness is one of the best indicators of a person’s overall health and a high level of fitness reduces the risk for major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the majority (86%) of school-going children spend more than two hours daily, sitting viewing TV, videos or playing on the computer. 2 This means almost 9 out of 10 Irish children are insufficiently active to benefit their current or future health.2
As part of the Schools Fitness Challenge, Aviva is working with relevant bodies, such as the Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance and the Centre for Preventive Medicine, Dublin City University to promote physical activity and fitness in school-going children. Results and winners of the challenge will be announced in early April 2013.
The challenge is being monitored by Dr. Sarah Kelly and challenge creator, exercise physiologist, Prof. Niall Moyna from the Centre for Preventive Medicine in DCU.