Operation Transformation Expert  Sounds Major Health Warning for Our Children

by Gazette Reporter
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Frank Greally

Professor Niall Moyna; Clinical Exercise Physiologist at the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU, has called on government, School Principals and teachers togive priority to physical exercise in primary and secondary school timetables.

Last week, Athletics Ireland hosted a Day of Special Celebration at The Morton Stadium in Santry, Dublin when over 200 children from four Primary Schools participated in The Daily Mile and also enjoyed  sample session of Little Athletics – Running, Jumping and Throwing led by Olympian David Matthews. The Daily Mile is an initiative promoted by Athletics Ireland in association with Local Sports Partnerships.

“One thing we have learned in the last two years,” said Professor Moyna “is the importance of both physical and mental health. That’s the big message that has come from this pandemic; there is nothing more important to human beings than their health, their physical and mental health, and probably the best drug that we have is exercise. There’s not a single organ system in our body that is not affected by exercise. I know of no drug that can impact positively on every single organ system in your body at the same time, regardless whether you do that exercise for three minutes, five minutes or 10 minutes, you get enormous benefits and then doing it repeatedly, you even get added benefits.

The Daily Mile Celebration at Morton Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“I’m begging principals and teachers to make time for physical activity, because we want our kids leaving our primary school, not just with the academic, know-how to be able to go on in life and in secondary school, but we want them leaving in a really good state of physical and mental health. And that is not currently happening. It’s not the fault of the teachers. It’s the society that we live in, but we’ve got to prioritise. Is it more important to get that extra little bit of knowledge before going to secondary school or is it more important to go to secondary school fit and healthy and being able to engage optimally?

“I want to stop the next generation of kids falling into the trap that the current generation is falling into. The current generation of kids now, according to the World Health Organisation could be the first who do not outlive their parents – because they’re developing chronic diseases earlier and earlier.  I believe that every child in primary and secondary school, should attain a minimum fitness level for their age and gender that reduces their risk for developing these cardio-metabolic diseases.

“There’s no simple solution, but if the government is going to change the current trend that we have towards chronic illness, it’s going to involve a paradigm shift in our thinking and society will not reap the rewards for five to 10 to 15 years. And unfortunately governments think in terms of five years. So I’m begging governments and saying to politicians, can we just park the instant gratification for the moment and think about the deferred gratification that you will get from seeing a society that’s more healthy and productive?

“Michael Martin can look himself in the mirror and say, ‘Look what I did with smoking’. And I would love to see a few other people take a similar lead. Instead of being a society where all of our ailments are fixed with a surgical knife or with a drug, we can use this wonderful medicine that we have, called lifestyle and particularly exercise.  I think The Daily Mile will develop behaviours that will stay with kids throughout their lives.

“I would like to see us dramatically reversing the amount of cardio-metabolic disease that affects society and many of the newer degenerative diseases. We have to create a society and an environment that’s conducive to be physically active. That’s very, very important. And it’s not just about physical activity. It’s also about our nutrition.

“We have to be far more imaginative about how, how we do this. We have to decide. Do you want to develop a chronic disease in your thirties and forties and fifties and live 30 years with chronic disease, in a state of ill health? 

“That’s a decision we all have to make. I would like to see us able to be healthy, productive members of society well into our eighties and our nineties. We’re all likely to get ill eventually, but if we’re getting ill in our twenties, thirties, and forties, our healthcare system simply cannot sustain that. 

“Type Two diabetes alone could bankrupt healthcare systems globally because of all the co-morbidities associated with that disease. That is a disease primarily due to lifestyle that can be stopped with diet and exercise.

“Though many millions have been spent on complicated and expensive initiatives to tackle the problem of physical inactivity, not one of them has worked . No single initiative in the Western World has had any lasting impact on childhood obesity. It has been proven that The Daily Mile – walk or run – in primary schools is a powerful weapon in the fight against inactivity and obesity.

“We know that children continue to become overweight younger and a startling and frightening piece of research confirms that 20- 25% of children in Ireland today between the ages of two and five are already overweight. 

The Daily Mile Celebration at Morton Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“The Daily Mile is about getting children to be physically active during the course of the school day and to show them how little it takes to develop fitness to be able to walk or run a mile,” Professor Niall Moyna said.

Jack Chambers TD, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Sport, attended yesterday’s Celebration Day for The Daily Mile and congratulated the teachers, children and Athletics Ireland for continuing to promote The Daily Mile.

“This has been a great opportunity for me to see The Daily Mile in action and to see that children are getting the opportunity to sample athletics events like running, jumping and throwing,” Minister Chambers said. “The Daily Mile is a great initiative by Athletics Ireland and it highlights the need for all children to be encouraged to embrace an active lifestyle. It’s very important for the overall health of the nation that children are encouraged to exercise at an early age,” he said.

For more information about The Daily Mile – Contact: Frank Greally at 087 25 69 690 or email: [email protected] See: thedailymile.ie 

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