Data project aims to ward off exercise ‘catastrophe’ in kids

The biggest data analysis project of its kind, globally, is to be conducted in primary schools so experts can see what must be done to get young children achieving the exercise levels of previous generations.

The increasingly sedentary nature of children’s lives has been described by experts as a “ potential catastrophe”.

The activity levels of up to 3,000 primary students will be tested over the next three months and their findings used to deliver a programme for schools next September which, it is hoped, will get children exercising in school again.

The GAA will come on board to deliver an exercising programme. The Insight Centre for Data Analytics project Moving Well — Being Well, is the largest project of its kind in the world.

Dublin City University research over three years showed just 11% of Irish teens have mastered fundamental movement skills, like running, skipping, kicking a ball and catching a ball. They should have mastered such skills by age six.

Dr Johann Issartel of DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance said the research revealed 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”.

“Fundamental movement skills like running, hopping, throwing, skipping, striking, dodging amongst others are the building blocks for movement. The window of opportunity for children learning these skills are up to about the age of eight years old — after this age, children will find it difficult to develop these skills.

"The development of these skills do not happen by chance, they happen through relevant play opportunities and experiences,” he said.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics was set up by Science Foundation Ireland to bring together significant data science expertise. It is a joint initiative between DCU, NUI Galway, UCC and UCD.

One Cork school began to introduce the Skip-Hop workshops 10 years ago where fitness experts came into the school for a week to provide masterclasses in skipping. A teacher at Scoil Nioclás in Frankfield, Cork, Ciara O’Callaghan said they teach everything from basic skills to partner skipping.

“Girls have traditionally been fonder of skipping but we see a huge interest afterwards from the boys too as 10 minutes of skipping is equal to 40 minutes of running,” she said. “If you drive by parks near our school, at the weekend, you’ll see them all skipping in the weeks after Skip Hop.”


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