Post-primary schools in Ireland have been urged to redouble their efforts to ensure that students get at least two hours' physical education per week.
The call was made jointly by the Irish Heart Foundation and the Federation of Irish Sport (FIS), the representative association for national governing bodies of sport, amid data which indicates that that one in five teenagers is overweight or obese.
"PE is an intrinsic element in encouraging young people to be physically active," said Maureen Mulvihill, Head of Health Promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation, commented.
"Given the high levels of inactivity in teenagers, increasing levels of overweight and obesity and early signs of heart disease, it is vital that the recommended level of PE is compulsory for all pupils."
"According to available research, only 10% of post-primary students are receiving the recommendation of 120 minutes of PE every week," said Sarah O'Connor, FIS Chief Executive.
" We also know that girls are less likely than boys to meet the physical activity recommendations for health of at least 60 minutes each day, that they receive fewer minutes of formal PE in school and that they are more likely than boys to be timetabled for single as opposed to double class periods.
"Schools along with parents have a key role to play in ensuring that young people meet the physical activity levels needed for health.
"It is vital that we take this issue seriously."
The call was made at the launch of the Pumped Schools' Video Awards, supported by Bayer in partnership with the Irish Heart Foundation, the Federation of Irish Sport and RTÉ news2day..
This initiative seeks to encourage young people to produce 90-second movies on a heart health theme, with a prize fund of €10,000 on offer.
The awards are open to all post-primary students between the ages of 12 and 16 and is supported by sports stars including Irish Women's Rugby Captain Fiona Coghlan and Olympic medal-winning boxer Paddy Barnes.
For more information on the Pumped Schools' Video Awards, visit www.pumped.ie. The closing date for entries is January 16, 2015.