An Innovative Fitness App

The Wellness Initiative Alliance has launched a new App which is ideal for students who would like to run the Alliance’s Aviva Schools Fitness Challenge and which is also a useful aid for PE teachers, writes Mr Ciaran Faughnan, the Alliance CEO.

Mr. Ciaran Faughnan CEO WEllness Alliance , Mr. James Parker Aviva Health, Prof Niall Moyna and Mr. Michael Ring TD Minister of State at the Aviva in April this year.
Mr. Ciaran Faughnan CEO WEllness Alliance , Mr. James Parker Aviva Health, Prof Niall Moyna and Mr. Michael Ring TD Minister of State at the Aviva in April this year.

The Wellness Initiative Alliance was established in 2013. Its vision is an Ireland in which wellness is a core value at individual, community and national level. Its mission is to identify, develop and deliver sustainable wellness initiatives in Ireland, but with a global potential. This is on a basis which is measurable and sustainable.

I have set the goal of transformative long term behavioural change in wellbeing. This will be achieved by utilising the latest ICT technologies and social media working and in partnership with government and private sector.

The Wellness Initiative Alliance is an Irish Non-Profit organisation. Its Directors are Ciaran Faughnan, CEO and Martin Mc Cormack. We both have roles currently in the health system. I am the Director of Facilities at Tallaght Hospital and Martin is COO at the RCPI. The Alliance is behind the Schools Fitness Challenge, the “Beat the Bleep” initiative developed in collaboration with Dublin City University (DCU). It is sponsored and promoted by Aviva Health Insurance over the last three years, who, as a health insurer, encourage their customers to take a pro-active approach to their health.

Over the last number of years the Schools Fitness Challenge has gone from strength to strength, in large part due to the strong financial support of Aviva Health Insurance. In 2013 we offered the challenge to 1st and 2nd years in all schools and this year we expanded out up to 4th years. The numbers participating vary year on year but it has always surpassed the 10,000 mark.

App screenshot
App screenshot

The current Government has lent support and at each award ceremony for the last three years a Government Minister has attended: Minister Reilly T.D. in 2013, Minister Varadkar T.D. in 2014 and this year Minister of State Michael Ring T.D. kindly attended to lend his support with our sporting VIPs including Irish rugby player Robbie Henshaw.

The 2015 results show that boys are now 53% fitter than girls compared to 45% fitter last year, highlighting the widening fitness gap between the genders who completed the Challenge in 2015

Upon completion of the Fitness Challenge each year – it runs from January to April – more valuable information comes to light and an important message is conveyed. This is very expertly communicated by Prof Niall Moyna from the Centre of Preventative Medicine in DCU who, in 2013, stressed the importance of cardiovascular fitness from an early age, and stated the Fitness Challenge demonstrates “that as little as six weeks of exercise training can lead to significant improvements in fitness among young girls and boys.”

The theme this year was to encourage children to start good fitness behaviour early. Prof Niall Moyna again spoke at this year’s awards ceremony advocating that “a new health science curriculum could be developed at both junior and senior cycles that combines education on human biology, chronic diseases, home economics and lifestyle, including physical activity, diet, smoking, alcohol and stress. Educating children about what physical activity actually does physiologically will help them understand how the body responds to exercise.”

It is the first time in the history of the State that the fitness levels of students have been objectively assessed and a full picture is emerging as 58,000 school children have participated to date. The 2015 results show that boys are now 53% fitter than girls compared to 45% fitter last year, highlighting the widening fitness gap between the genders who completed the Challenge in 2015.

The Alliance acknowledges that exercise intervention at a young age can improve fitness among school-going children and that continually assessing fitness levels can improve the overall health of the nation. Evidence also shows clearly that the appropriate level of cardiorespiratory fitness at a younger age can help safeguard against certain diseases later in life.

Why are initiatives like this so important? Recent studies show that 25% of school-going children have risk factors for heart disease, while 86% of spend more than two hours daily, sitting viewing TV, videos or playing on the computer. Therefore we want to convey the importance of knowing about The Schools Fitness Challenge Bleep Test and why is it so important to engage on it with school children. We believe it is essential that people understand the physiology behind it and most importantly that there is early awareness amongst our secondary school students of the vital significance of good cardiorespiratory fitness to their overall health and wellbeing currently, but also later in life.

The Bleep Test

The Multi-Stage Fitness test, also known as the Bleep Test, or 20-m shuttle run test, is a series of stages that have different tasks sometimes used by sports coaches and trainers to estimate an athlete’s VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake). This pacer test is a “progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance test”. The test is especially useful for players of sports such as rugby, soccer, gaelic football, hurling, tennis and squash, as well as fitness testing in schools and colleges plus many other sports. It is employed by many international sporting teams as an accurate test of cardiovascular fitness, one of the more important components of health.    

Our “My Wellness School Fitness” App

In keeping with our conviction in the importance of technology, the Wellness Initiative Alliance is delighted to announce the launch of our new App in June of this year. It is an ideal App for students who would like to run the Fitness Challenge themselves throughout the year. This App is also a useful aid for PE teachers as it also incorporates the Bleep Test structure.

Similar to the Schools Fitness Challenge, this App is completely voluntary for any student to utilise. The App can also allow students to share their results. Our philosophy is one of inclusiveness and the test is only competitive in the context of aiming to improve on your own level of cardio fitness.

I believe that technology is vital to the sustainability of these initiatives and is designed to incentivise behavioural change. In future the App will contain information on topics such as nutrition. Of significance, and what distinguishes this App from other similar Apps that can be downloaded free, is that it incorporates the last three years of our test results to establish a baseline for Ireland’s schools and the fitness “norms” to allow a comparison with user’s own test results achieved.

Behind every great App should be an expert and the Alliance is lucky to have such an expert as a member. Dr. Sarah Kelly, from the Institute of Technology Carlow who is exercise physiologist contributed hugely to its development. The App can calculate your VO2max or maximal oxygen consumption as the multi-stage fitness test (bleep test) is a valid and reliable means of predicting VO2max according to Sarah. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator which is used as an indirect estimate of total body fat is incorporated.

“My Wellness Schools Fitness” App

Released via Google Play June 2015.

Details at www.wellnessinitiativealliance.com

App search under – My Wellness Schools Fitness

  • Allows users to keep track of some personal details relating to their health & wellness
    • Bleep Test results – to estimate VO2 Max
    • Height & Weight – to calculate BMI
  • Results are charted to visually display progress

Some details may be shared via:

  • Facebook (if they have an account)

Bluetooth connection with another App user.