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Low fitness levels among teens

NEW research has  found a measurable negative impact on the health of blood vessels in 15 and 16-year-old boys with low fitness levels. This disturbing detail was released to mark the launch of Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2015

Boys with low fitness levels, who performed poorly in a 20m shuttle run test, were also more likely to be overweight, have higher blood pressure and cholesterol when compared to children with moderate to high fitness levels.

Heart disease, which involves the build-up of plaque in the walls of blood vessels, is the leading cause of death in Ireland. The research found that boys with low levels of fitness had significantly more plaque in the walls of the arteries supplying the brain than the boys with high levels of fitness.

In 2014, nine Clare schools (50% of secondary schools) signed up for the Schools’ Fitness Challenge. A total of 13,067 students (7,242 boys and 5,825 girls) from 26 counties across Ireland successfully complete the challenge.

The Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2015 is a national challenge for first, second, third and transition year male and female students that measures aerobic fitness and highlights the importance of cardiovascular fitness to their current and future health.

The most improved school in the 2014 Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge experienced a massive 68.1% improvement between phases, demonstrating the positive impact that even a short spell of fitness activity or exercise has on cardiovascular health.

According to Dr Sarah Kelly, exercise physiologist and Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge monitor, “The Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge aims to provide teenagers with a measure of their cardiovascular fitness and increase their awareness of how important physical activity is to their overall health. This six-week challenge has been designed to improve cardiovascular health by motivating secondary-school students to prioritise their aerobic fitness.”

Professor Niall Moyna of the Centre for Preventive Medicine in Dublin City University said, “The research clearly shows the danger of poor levels of aerobic fitness, with 15-year-olds already showing signs of early onset heart disease. A high level of fitness reduces the risk for major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and diabetes. Interventions such as the Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge are very important in addressing these issues and we have already seen a positive impact as a result of the initiative, with 2014 results showing improved fitness across all participating school by almost 20% on average in only six weeks.”

When teachers register for the challenge at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Saturday, January 17, they will receive a step-by-step guide to participation and a CD with the bleep test.
Teachers must conduct an initial fitness test to measure the current level of fitness of their students and these results should be submitted by Saturday, January 24.

The teachers then undertake a six-week training programme with their students to improve their cardiovascular fitness, after which the students complete a repeat fitness test to measure the improvement.

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