The majority of us go about our days accompanied by the inescapable sense that we are somehow incomplete; that we are lacking some fundamental piece of ourselves. Now, if the thing you're looking for is something complicated like inner tranquility or everlasting love, I'm sorry but you're barking up the wrong tree - I'm neither a calming influence nor single. However, if the missing piece of the puzzle keeping you from achieving contentment turns out to be a burning desire to find out which Irish schools have, on average, the students with the greatest cardiorespiratory fitness - and I'm sure statistically, there has to be somebody out there who this applies to - then oh baby, have you clicked into the right post!
Irish Life Health yesterday released results from the 2018 School's Fitness Challenge, allowing us to conclusively determine which are Ireland's fittest schools - for the year 2018 and from the schools that took part in the Challenge. Despite my phone calls; emails; extensive letter-writing campaign to them, my local TD, and then Leo Varadkar; a hastily organised and poorly attended public demonstration outside the Dáil, as well as one ill-advised interpretive dance, they have ignored my suggestion that the best way to settle the debate would be to gather all of the nation's school children to race in uniform across some large piece of unimportant land - such as Roscommon.
Instead though, the 2018 School's Fitness Challenge they have opted for the ol' six-week shuttle run study to track over 24,000 students cardiorespiratory fitness approach. I am man enough to bow to the greater wisdom of medical science to admit that this is perhaps, on balance, the more scientifically rigorous means of conducting this study.
Move over The Oscars, Golden Globes please, take up your things and get out now, as this is the true highlight of awards season. The results for Irish Life Health's School's Fitness Challenge are in, and the fittest schools in Ireland are:
- Mixed - Carrigallen Vocational School, Co. Leitrim
- Boys - St. Macartan's College, Co. Monaghan
- Girls/Overall - Colaiste Naomh Mhuire, Co.Kildare
The study also showed which schools showed the most marked improvement in results among students who participating in the shuttle-run programme.
- Mixed/Overall - Gort Community School, Co. Galway
- Boys - Summerhill College, Co. Sligo
- Girls - Alexandra College, Co. Dublin
The overall fittest school in Ireland then has been revealed to be Colaiste Naomh Mhuire.
The study, which is now in its eighth year, has examined the results of more than 200,000 children who have taken part throughout each year of the study. Overseen by Professor Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance, DCU, the study aims to show the importance of placing a greater focus on health and fitness during children's schooling years.
However, the study has highlighted a continued and worrying trend, of a drop-off in participation among students in third year and above. Many schools make PE an optional subject in post Junior Cert years, or even simply don't offer it to students taking particular subject combinations. As such, there is a marked decline in students in the 16-18 age bracket participating, both in the study, and in general fitness programmes.
Prof Niall Moyna said of this;
"We are seeing a direct link between the drop in participation and the increasing number of children aged from 16 – 18 years not meeting the minimum level of fitness required for optimal health. This is a major national issue, and the big question is why are schools and parents letting this happen?"
Prof. Moyna spoke of the myriad benefits of exercise, corroborated by numerous international studies, to a child's mental, physical and emotional development and well-being. He has called for schools to be better at encouraging, and offering the opportunity for, students to regularly exercise.