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Operation Transformation Step it Up Campaign

Irish children are getting to the top of the wrong league tables – they are at risk of becoming the most obese in Europe.

In primary school, it is recommended that children have just one hour of physical education per week. However, in reality, children are allocated on average 45 minutes per week, with a high proportion receiving no physical education at all (CSSPPA, 2010). The quality of PE varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher, and there are no dedicated PE teachers at Primary level.

Professor Niall Moyna, Dr Catherine Woods and a team from the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU have agreed to work with Operation Transformation to see if Irish children are moving enough from dawn to dusk.

Professor Moyna believes that children need to take 15 000 steps a day to maintain a healthy life. This equates to the Department of Health's recommendation of 60 minutes daily of moderate to vigorous physical activity. A study was conducted with ten primary schools across the country to find out how pupils measure up. In each school, one class was selected and the children were fitted with pedometers to record every step taken during the day. The children were monitored across a number of weeks to get a clear picture of their progress.

The results were analysed by the team at DCU and, based on the ten schools, the findings were:

• Less than 10 children of all those tested across all the schools are hitting the 15000 steps required.
• The majority of children are 2 000 steps short per day.
• The school with the worst result has children close to 4500 steps short per day.

Professor Moyna firmly believes that unless children increase their levels of physical activity they will develop a range of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer at an early stage. Additionally, children can improve their academic performance, their social capital and their general wellbeing as a result of being regularly active, according to Dr Catherine Woods.

The 'Step It Up Challenge' is encouraging primary school children to increase their steps by 2 000 a day, one thousand at school and one thousand at home. Parents/guardians, teachers and local communities play a vital role in supporting children to achieve this goal. To help you and/or your child to meet this challenge, DCU has prepared the following guides:

The 'Step It Up' Challenge
Become a Super Stepper
Starter Stepper
Stable Stepper
Stamina Stepper

To read more about Operation Transformation, click here.