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Compulsory 2 hours of PE per week needed to stop the rise of teen obesity

It is estimated that one in five Irish teenagers is overweight or obese.

AT LEAST TWO hours of compulsory PE each week is needed in post-primary schools.

According to the Irish Heart Foundation and the Federation of Irish Sport schools need to “redouble their efforts” in implementing the Department of Educations’ recommendation that students get at least 120 minutes of exercise per week.

Maureen Mulvihill, Head of Health Promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation said that PE is an intrinsic element in encouraging young people to be physically active.


“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, as is the case across Europe for primary and Junior cycle education,” she said.

It is estimated that one in five teenagers is overweight or obese, with Ireland’s rates amongst the worst in Europe.

Irish young people also top the  international league in terms of the levels of inactivity. The league, part of an analysis of 15 countries worldwide presented at a Global Summit on Physical Activity of Children in Toronto earlier this year, accorded Ireland a Grade D minus for physical activity amongst children, behind countries such as Mozambique, New Zealand, Mexico, Kenya and Nigeria.

Sarah O’Connor is Chief Executive of the Federation of Irish Sport said it is hard to understand against a backdrop of growing levels of obesity why it is not already compulsory.


According to available research only 10 per cent of post-primary students are receiving the recommendation of 120 minutes of PE every week. 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.

She said that the schools along with parents have a key role to play in ensuring that young people meet the physical activity levels needed for health.

In order to promote healthy living for teens, the Irish Heart Foundation, the Federation of Irish Sport and RTÉ news2day have launched the Pumped Schools’ Video Awards, supported by Bayer. The aim is to encourage young people to produce 90-second movies on a heart health theme, and there is a prize fund of €10,000.

Right choices

Fiona Coghlan, Captain of the Ireland team at the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014, PE teacher and member of the judging panel, said that she believes the awards should be included as part of the Junior Cert curriculum for all students in exploring their heart health, while Olympic medalist, boxer Paddy Barnes said “unless we make the right life choices, the stark reality is that we are just storing up lots of health problems for ourselves down the tracks. Why make life harder than it needs to be?”

Speaking at the launch of the awards, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

 In Ireland our health really is our wealth. The government’s Healthy Ireland initiative is aimed at improving the health and well-being of all the people of Ireland and for generations to come.

Through our plan, we’re asking everyone to play their part. Educating young people and encouraging participation in physical activity are essential to improving the health of our future generations.I hope that the Pumped Schools’ Video Awards will prove to be a fun and engaging way for students to find out and share the information they need about heart health as well as picking up tips on having a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

This is your chance—our chance—to get together and get involved in making our life everything it can be in body, mind and spirit.

To find out more about the competition, click here>>

Read: Irish kids get a ‘D minus’ for physical activity (but that’s not too bad, apparently)>

Column: Should PE be an exam subject in schools? YES.>

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