More on the growing health crisis among Irish children, as research has found that half of parents think their children are getting enough exercise during the school day, yet most aren’t.

Insurance company Irish Life Health found that 90% of secondary schools are providing less than two hours of physical education a week, despite guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity a day, or seven hours per week.

Many parents are unaware of this failure, with 42% believing their child is doing enough activity at school, and 58% saying they would struggle to make up the five hour shortfall with their child.

The news follows recent findings that Irish kids as old as 12 are unable to run, jump, throw, catch or even hit a ball properly because they’re so inactive.

Irish Life Health surveyed 70 PE teachers and 82% said the PE curriculum needs to be changed. The research was commissioned to mark the launch of its sixth Schools Fitness Challenge which aims to help pupils adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The challenge aims to show students the impact a simple six-week programme can have on their fitness levels, and last year more than a quarter of secondary schools in Ireland took part.

PE teachers can register their students to take part on the Irish Life Health website until September 22. And if you’re child is going to be doing contact sports as part of their exercise, ask us about mouthguards.

Irish Olympian and Irish Life Health ambassador Thomas Barr said: “I’ve always used my athletics as a break from studying — nothing cleared my head like getting out for a training session with my friends.

“It’s so important that teenagers start exercising now and have fun doing it, to ensure that healthy lifestyle habits are established early on. The Irish Life Health Schools Fitness Challenge is a great place to start.”

Professor Niall Moyna of the Centre for Preventive Medicine in Dublin City University helped to create the challenge. He said: “Physical education programmes in our schools have huge shortcomings, and the fact that so many of our children are overweight and unfit leaving school is clear proof of this.

“If our children were failing maths leaving school we would quickly look at why and we need to do the same with PE as it’s simply not working the way it is taught in our schools.”