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Irish teenage boys are 42% fitter than girls

The study measured aerobic fitness by testing students with a beep test – the results of which they then entered into a competition.

The results are thought to show the drop off of girls participating in sports, and suggest a restructure of the sports education curriculum.
The results are thought to show the drop off of girls participating in sports, and suggest a restructure of the sports education curriculum.
Image: Shutterstock/Fotokostic

IRISH GIRLS ARE less likely than boys to get their recommended amount of exercise, according to new research by Irish Life Health School Fitness Challenge.

The research shows that the gender gap widens as boys and girls progress through school; in Transition Year, boys are 42% fitter than girls, as opposed to first year boys being 32% fitter than girls.

Over a quarter of all Irish secondary schools signed up for the Schools Fitness Challenge in 2016, with 22,764 students taking part; 10,935 girls and 11,828 boys.

Students also experienced a significant improvement in their fitness levels after just six weeks of exercise training, with first year boys (+11%) and fourth year girls (+14%) showing the biggest improvement levels overall.

Dr Kate Kirby, Head of Performance Psychology at the Irish Institute of Sport said that there could be a number of reasons for the reduced participation (which are the result of the lower levels of fitness) in girls compared to boys.

Numerous reasons have been put forward to explain this, including losing interest, limited time, perceived lack of competence in competitive settings and fear of appearing ‘uncool’ or ‘unfeminine’.

“Some additional considerations that may reduce female adolescent drop-out from sport include the provision of single-sex physical activities, de-emphasising competition and increasing opportunities for social interaction within the sporting environment.

“Finally, the benefit of promoting positive athletic female role models cannot be underestimated.”

‘I don’t feel well’

shutterstock_298463408 Source: Shutterstock/DGLimages

Irish Life Health also surveyed PE teachers to get their views on their students’ participation in PE, and 96% of teachers believe that their students fake excuses to get out of PE class.

The top excuse is students saying they aren’t well (63%), followed by students saying they forgot their gear (23%). A further 71% of teachers feel their students avoid PE as they are just uninterested in doing physical activity.

The School Fitness Challenge, now in its fifth year, has been overseen by Professor Niall Moyna in the Centre for Preventive Medicine, Dublin City University with a total of 126,162 secondary school students taking part from 2012-2016.

Moyna says that the “rigidity” of the current PE curriculum needs to change to short periods of physical activity that encourage senior cycle students – particularly girls to stay active.

The School Fitness Challenge was created with the aim of making physical fitness a national priority and to encourage young people to be proactive in adopting a healthier and more active lifestyle.

You can find out more about the Challenge here.

Read: Ireland has one of the worst hospital waiting times in Europe

Read: GAA clubs are branching out to people who have no interest in sport

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