Aviva Health Insurance, along with Donegal captain and PE teacher, Michael Murphy from Bomany, Letterkenny, recently launched the Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2014 – a national challenge for 1st, 2nd and 3rd year pupils that measures the aerobic fitness levels of school children, and highlights its importance to their current and future health. Secondary Schools across Donegal can register now to participate in the Aviva Health Schools Fitness Challenge at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge, registration closes on Friday, 17th January.
Last year seven Donegal schools completed the initiative with over 460 students taking part.
The Wellness Economic Alliance initiative was developed by Professor Niall Moyna from the Centre for Preventive Medicine at Dublin City University. New research reveals that 8 in 10 secondary school teachers believe physical education should be treated as a core examinable subject (to include the regular monitoring of fitness levels) on the curriculum for all students.1 The research was carried among 205 secondary school teachers located in 13 different counties.
“At present there is little or no debate regarding the role of assessment and evaluation of fitness among school-going children in Ireland, and this needs to change.” said Prof Moyna. ““Physical education teachers are professionally trained and have the requisite skill-set to undertake fitness testing and our initial research indicates support by teachers for such an initiative with 80% agreeing with the statement.” 1
This research shows that secondary school teachers across Ireland share the view that a fit and healthy population is as important as an educated one, with even classroom based teachers agreeing that PE should be assessed by regular testing. Aviva Health supports the introduction of Physical Education to the new junior certificate programme and together with the Wellness Economic Alliance is calling on the Department of Education to set national age appropriate fitness levels in children, and for the fitness levels of secondary school students to be routinely assessed, like other examinable subjects, as part of the curriculum.
Prof Moyna continued, “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, and diabetes. Furthermore, our research shows that the majority of teachers (9 in 10) recognise that regular physical activity impacts positively on student’s academic performance, leading to a marked improvement in concentration, motivation, alertness and an overall healthy mind1.”
A recent report, commissioned by the Irish Sports Council and compiled by ESRI, is the largest study of participation in sport and exercise ever conducted in Ireland. The key findings include that while many primary school children engage in regular sporting activity, the problem lies in keeping them involved as they get older. Interestingly the report also revealed that students who play sport get, on average, better Leaving Certificate results3.
Irish International track and field athlete, David Gillick, Irish Gaelic Footballer who captains Donegal and newly qualified PE teacher, Michael Murphy and National Junior Athlete of the Year 2013, Sarah Lavin (from Limerick), were at the launch to drive home the message to school children across Ireland that exercising when you’re young sets you up for life and can lead to improved academic performance.
According to Dr. Sarah Kelly, exercise physiologist and Challenge monitor, “Research has shown that regular exercise can prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases. If we could package exercise in a tablet it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the world. The Aviva Health School’s Fitness Challenge aims to provide children with a measure of their cardiovascular fitness and increase awareness of how important physical activity is to their overall health.”
PE Teacher and Donegal GAA star Michael Murphy said, “Children in Ireland are worryingly inactive, with only 12% of 10-18 year olds in Ireland meeting the Department of Health and Children physical activity recommendations of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily2. As a recently qualified PE teacher, I strongly feel that physical education needs to be prioritised and viewed as a core examinable subject like Maths and Irish, so that children learn from an early age the importance of exercise and carry that behaviour right through to adulthood.”
David Gillick said, “Fitness starts with parents and teachers who shape our kids, but it is all of our responsibility to look after the next generation and explain to them the importance of healthy living. Sport has always played a huge role in my life. It forces me to set goals, be disciplined and push myself to continuously achieve more. I train twice a day, six days a week. I have trained my body to crave exercise, which keeps me healthy both in mind and body. I encourage all secondary schools across the country to sign up to Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2014.”
Alison Burns, CEO at Aviva Ireland, commented; “At Aviva Health we are extremely proud to support the Schools’ Fitness Challenge for a second year. Last year the initiative was an incredible success and we hope that this year will be even bigger with the addition of more students now that the challenge is open to 3rd years. We hope our involvement will contribute to our long-term strategy of improving the health of our children and future generations.”
This year, Aviva Health’s sponsorship of the Schools Fitness Challenge will be bigger and better, open to 1st, 2nd and (for the first time) 3rd year secondary school students across the country, with prizes across 8 categories for most improved and fittest boys’, girls’ and mixed schools plus for every PE teacher whose class completes the challenge, they will be entered into a draw to win a €500 Elverys Sports voucher.
Upon completion of registering for the Challenge at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Friday, 17th January, PE teachers will receive all they need to participate including a step-by-step guide on how to complete the Challenge and a CD with the bleep test. The initial fitness test will examine the current level of fitness of the students and these results must be uploaded to the website by 31st January 2014. The teachers will then undertake a six week training programme with their students to improve the cardiovascular fitness and then the students will complete another fitness test to measure the improvement.
Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2014 is calling on all secondary schools and teachers across the country today to register their interest in the national fitness challenge online at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by the closing date, Friday, 17th January.
Aviva Health would like teachers to get involved online as well, so make sure you keep them up to date on how your school is progressing by tweeting @AvivaIreland and using the Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge hash tag on Twitter #SchoolsFitnessChallenge