Students to take part in study to tackle physical activity ‘crisis’

Researchers and GAA team up with aim of reaching 130,000 students

Just 11 per cent of Irish teens have mastered fundamental movement skills they should have mastered by the age of six. Photograph: Alan Betson

Just 11 per cent of Irish teens have mastered fundamental movement skills they should have mastered by the age of six. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Three thousand primary school students are to be recruited to take part in a new study aimed at tackling low levels of physical activity among teenagers.

Researchers have teamed up with the GAA for what they claim is the largest ever such project globally, with the aim of reaching 130,000 children by the end of it.

Just 11 per cent of Irish teens have mastered fundamental movement skills, such as running, skipping and kicking a ball, that they should have mastered by the age of six, according to 2014 research from Dublin City University.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics and DCU will launch the Moving Well – Being Well project on Thursday and says it aims to bring a “child-centred approach” to the problem.

Dr Johann Issartel of DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance said the number of teenagers found to have mastered fundamental movement skills was at an “unprecedented low”.

“It’s a potential catastrophe for public health because the inability to perform fundamental movement skills leads to an aversion to sports and exercise later in life,” he said.

The project will test 3,000 primary school students in the next three months across the island of Ireland.

Researchers will then create an intervention they expect to be adopted in schools and delivered by DCU and Insight researchers as well GAA officers from September.

Training sessions are currently underway with games promotion officers, and it is hoped that in time teachers will also be trained and able to deliver the intervention.

Technology

Prof Noel O’Connor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics said technology would be used to gather and analyse data “at a scale not previously possible”.

“The project will allow us better understand the current situation regarding the physical literacy of Irish children and we will then use the unique insights this generates to develop novel approaches to address what is a key challenge for Irish society,” he said.

GAA director of games development and research Pat Daly said the GAA and Dublin GAA were delighted to be collaborating with the researchers on the initiative.

“I don’t think we need to be alarmist here but there is a problem, and this project aims to tackle it in the most child-centred, activity-based, learner-led, achievement-oriented, fun-filled and value-laden manner possible,” he said.

Mr Daly said the GAA had a proven track record in this area with its “Play to Stay Well” initiative. A total of 12,473 participants attended GAA Cúl Camps in the past 12 months.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics is an initiative bringing together 400 researchers from Dublin City University, NUI Galway, University College Cork, University College Dublin and other partner institutions.

Its 40 industry partners include The Irish Times, RTÉ, Cisco, Fujitsu Siemens and the research group Elsevier, which provides information to science and health professionals.