Are Kids Lacking Fundamental Movement Skills?
Movements like running, skipping, kicking a ball, and catching come naturally to all children, right? Wrong. Recent research from Dublin City University has found that just 11% of Irish adolescents have mastered basic fundamental movement skills such as these.
We’re often told that kids aren't doing enough physical activity, and that there's a growing obesity problem in Ireland. But the implication of this can be difficult to process; until issues are emphasised in this manner.
Research project Moving Well – Being Well aims to highlight, and tackle the problem, in a child-centred and scientific manner. Carried out by the Insight Centre of Data Analytics, DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance, and the GAA; it is the largest research project of its kind ever attempted.
Since the initial launch, the team have been criss-crossing the country, assessing more than 2,000 children in 40 schools scattered across all four provinces. This is only the beginning; but it already shows that an alarming 9 out of 10 Irish teens have not mastered fundamental movements that they should have learned by the age of 6.
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But what difference does catching a ball make? Leader of the study, Dr Johann Issartel, explains: "It's a potential catastrophe for public health, because the inability to perform fundamental movement skills leads to an aversion to sports and exercise later in life. It's a time bomb for the healthcare system.” Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are the building blocks for children’s co-ordination and movement. The development of these skills do not happen by chance, but through relevant play opportunities, and experiences; and if FMS are mastered, they lay the foundation for a lifelong commitment to physical activity.
Professor Noel O’Connor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics explains the significance of their work: “This is the largest project of its kind anywhere in the world. It is a wonderful example of the power of big data and data analytics. Technology will be used to gather and analyse data at a scale not previously possible. We will be assessing 3,000 children and with novel interventions, we will potentially reach 130,000 by the end of the project."
Researchers are assessing children’s motor skills, alongside health related factors such as cardiovascular fitness, body mass index, strength, and flexibility. In addition, they're surveying how much physical activity these children get, and measuring psychological factors around physical activity; including confidence, motivation, perceived competence, and wellbeing.
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But this isn’t just research for the sake of it. They're using the results to develop schools-based interventions, to improve those skills; as well as ascertaining the best ways to upskill teachers and coaches. This will be delivered by DCU and Insight researchers as well as Coaching Officers from the GAA from September 2017.
Do you think schools are doing enough to promote physical fitness for our kids? What else can we do to improve this? Or do you think there is too much attention being paid to how much we exercise? We'd love to hear.