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New research reveals 15-16 year olds already showing signs of heart disease due to poor fitness1

Aviva Health launches the 2015 Schools' Fitness Challenge to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Transition Year students which aims to highlight the importance of cardiovascular fitness from an early age

Dublin, 6th January 2015: New research released today to mark the launch of Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2015 with Aviva Health found a measurable negative impact on the health of blood vessels in 15-16 year old boys with low fitness levels1. Boys with low fitness levels and who performed poorly in a 20 m 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 Ireland2. 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.

According to Dr. Sarah Kelly, Exercise Physiologist and 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 simple 6 week challenge has been designed to improve cardiovascular health by motivating children to prioritise their aerobic fitness.”

The Schools’ Fitness Challenge has grown year on year; 2014 saw a total of 13,067 students (7,242 boys and 5,825 girls) from 26 counties across Ireland successfully complete the challenge. The Schools’ Fitness Challenge with Aviva Health will be even bigger and better in 2015 with the challenge now open for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and, for the first time, Transition Year students. The Challenge measures aerobic fitness and highlights the importance of cardiovascular fitness to current and future health. The Most Improved School in the 2014 Schools’ Fitness Challenge experienced a massive 68.1% improvement between phases demonstrating the positive impact that even a short spell of fitness activity/exercise has on cardiovascular health.

Prof 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 Schools’ Fitness Challenge with Aviva Health 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.”

Irish International and Connacht Rugby player, Robbie Henshaw, Irish International striker, Stephanie Roche and National Senior 60mH & 100mH Champion, Sarah Lavin, were at the launch to support the campaign and encourage participation for the 2015 Challenge. The stars highlighted the importance of exercising to improve heart health and develop good habits for a healthy life.

When teachers register for the Challenge at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Saturday, 17th January, 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, 24th January. 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.

James Parker, CEO of Aviva Health stated: “At Aviva Health, we are delighted to continue to support the Schools’ Fitness Challenge which is now in its 3rd year. For the first time the Schools’ Fitness Challenge is open to Transition Year students as well as to 1st, 2nd, 3rd year secondary school students across the country. At a time when chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are on the increase3, initiatives such as this are extremely important in improving fitness levels and helping to establish positive long-term behavioural change to improve our nation’s fitness.”

Irish International and Connacht Rugby player, Robbie Henshaw said, “Sport has always played a huge role in my life and I am delighted to be part of an initiative that encourages better fitness and highlights the importance of health to children at such a critical age. I hope that all secondary schools across Ireland will sign up to Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2015 and I look forward to seeing the amazing results when the Challenge is completed.”

Irish International striker, Stephanie Roche added “I am thrilled to be involved in the Aviva School’s Fitness Challenge 2015. Highlighting the importance of physical exercise for these students will hopefully lead to them forming healthy habits that they will take with them through their life. The Schools’ Fitness Challenge is also a fun way to get healthy and I hope to see even more schools compete in this year’s Challenge. Get your school registered now.”

Don’t forget to register for Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge online at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by the closing date, Saturday 17th January. Follow the updates for the Aviva Health Schools’ Fitness Challenge with on Twitter @AvivaIreland #SchoolsFitnessChallenge.

There are prizes from Elverys Sports in eight categories for the most improved and fittest boys, girls and mixed schools. Every PE teacher whose class completes the challenge will be entered into a draw to win a €500 Elverys Sports voucher.

Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge is sponsored by Aviva Health Insurance. It was developed by Dublin City University and the Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance and is supported by Elverys Sports.

 

For further information please contact:

Jemma Hogan: 01 6188412 or 0867779063 or jemmahogan@fleishmaneurope.com

Amy Pilgrim: 01 6188 461 or 087 261 3300 or amy.pilgrim@fleishmaneurope.com

 

Notes to the Editor

 

Aviva Health’s Schools’ Fitness Challenge 2015

Secondary schools interested in participating in the national challenge are encouraged to register online at www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Saturday, 17th January to receive a registration pack with the fitness test on CD, and step-by-step guidelines of how to complete the programme.

Aviva Health is working with the Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance and the Centre for Preventive Medicine, Dublin City University to promote physical activity and fitness in school-going children. The challenge will be monitored by Dr. Sarah Kelly, Institute of Technology Carlow and exercise physiologist, and challenge creator, Prof. Niall Moyna.

In 2014, a total of 13,067 students (7,242 boys and 5,825 girls) from 26 counties across Ireland successfully completed the challenge4.

 

Timings

  • Schools register online to participate. The closing date for entries is Saturday 17th January 2015
  • Schools conduct an initial fitness test and submit scores on www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Saturday 24th
  • Schools undertake a six week training programme to improve aerobic fitness. Training programmes must be completed by Friday 6th March 2015.
  • The fitness test is repeated with the same class and the new scores are submitted on www.avivahealth.ie/fitnesschallenge by Sunday 15th March 2015.

 

Prize Categories

There are 9 different prize categories:

  • Ireland’s Fittest Girls’ School / Ireland’s Fittest Boys’ School / Ireland’s Fittest Mixed School will each win sports equipment of their choice for their school to the value of €500 from Elverys Sports
  • Ireland’s Fittest School Overall will win an additional €500 worth of sports equipment of their choice for their school (total prize value of €1,000) in total from Elverys Sports
  • Ireland’s Most Improved Girls’ School / Ireland’s Most Improved Boys’ School / Ireland’s Most Improved Mixed School will each win sports equipment of their choice for their school to the value of €500 from Elverys Sports
  • Ireland’s Most Improved School Overall will win an additional €500 worth of sports equipment of their choice for their school (total value of €1,000) from Elverys Sports
  • Every PE teacher whose class completes the challenge will also be entered into a draw to win a €500 Elverys Sports voucher

 

Prizes will include a perpetual cup for the overall winner and trophies for the runner up schools.

Ireland’s Fittest School and Irelands Most Improved School will both be invited to attend the awards ceremony in Aviva Stadium in April 2015.

www.avivaheatlh.ie/fitnesschallenge

 

About Aviva Health Insurance Ireland Ltd

Aviva Health Insurance Ireland Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

 

Wellness Economic Initiative Alliance

This Wellness Alliance has been in existence for a number of years but was incorporated in early 2013 as a 'Not for Profit' organisation. Its vision; an Ireland in which wellness is a core value at individual, community and national level. Its mission is to identify, develop and deliver targeted wellness economic initiatives in Ireland, but with a global potential. This is on a basis which is measurable and sustainable. The goal is transformative long term behavioural change in health and wellbeing. This will be achieved by utilising the latest ITC technologies and an incentivised economic model to support.

 

Dr Sarah Kelly

Sarah is an exercise physiologist and advocate of the Schools’ Fitness Challenge. Sarah is currently lecturing in the Institute of Technology Carlow and recently completed her PhD in Dublin City University. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Science and a Masters in Exercise Physiology both from Dublin City University. A major focus of Sarah’s research is the role of exercise in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, specifically examining how a single exercise session and exercise training effects blood vessels in healthy and diseased individuals. Sarah was a Super League basketball player.

 

Professor Niall Moyna

Niall is a Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance and a member of the Centre for Preventive Medicine in DCU. A familiar face, Niall actively highlights the importance of childhood fitness as the key to tackling the effect of inactivity and low fitness on lifestyle-mediated diseases, primarily cardiovascular disease. Prof Moyna received his Masters degree from Purdue University, Indiana, PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, and completed a three year National Institute of Health Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in immunology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.

 

About Elverys Sports

Elverys Sports was established in 1847 and is the oldest sports store in Ireland, with 54 stores nationwide. Elverys employs over six hundred people and is wholly Irish owned. Elverys Sports continually support organisations and associations that promote sport at a grass root level, and is proud to partner with Aviva Health in supporting the Schools’ Fitness Challenge for 2015

 

References:

  1. Sheridan et al, Centre for Preventative Medicine. Dublin City University. Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Male Adolescents. Presented at the World Federation of Athletic Training and Therapy (WFATT) World Congress 2014
  2. Irish Heart Foundation. Facts on Heart Disease and Stroke. Available at: http://www.irishheart.ie/iopen24/facts-heart-disease-stroke-t-7_18.html. Accessed December 2014
  3. Institute of Public Health. Making Chronic Conditions Count. http://hse.openrepository.com/hse/bitstream/10147/99865/4/xMakingChronicConditionsCountExecSummary.pdf Accessed December 2014
  4. Aviva Health Schools Fitness Challenge results 2014