• Paul Fingleton

World's Largest project to improve Children's fitness: Irish researchers with 2,000+ childre

9 in 10 Irish teens haven’t mastered fundamental movements that they should have mastered by the age of 6. Moving Well – Being Well, an ongoing research project aimed at improving Irish children’s fundamental movement skills is well underway.

Last March, it came to light that 9 out of 10 Irish teens have not mastered fundamental movements that they should have mastered by the age of 6.

This statistic was one of the reasons for the launch of Moving Well – Being Well - the largest research project of its kind ever attempted globally – which aims to tackle this problem in a child centred and scientific manner.

Researchers from the Insight Centre of Data Analytics and DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance joined forces with the GAA and the Dublin GAA and have been assessing more than 2,000 children in 40 schools in 12 counties across all the provinces.


What are Fundamental Movements?

  • Running

  • Skipping

  • Kicking a ball

  • Catching a ball


Recent research from Dublin City University found that the Fundamental Movements are not naturally inherent in children. A 2014 study found that just 11% of Irish adolescents had mastered basic skills such as these. Leader of that study, Dr Johann Issartel, said back in March, "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.” This is where Moving Well - Being Well comes in.

Professor Noel O’Connor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics said, “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.”


“The research has brought a greater focus on the need to look at the whole area of well-being in our young people. Something that unfortunately that is being ignored at present.”

- Kevin Plunkett, Principal of St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School in Forkhill, Armagh


With more than 10,000 kilometres covered so far, researchers have assessed the current state of

Irish children’s motor skills, alongside other health related factors such as their cardiovascular fitness, body mass index, strength, and flexibility. In addition, they have surveyed exactly how much physical activity these children get and measured a number of psychological factors around physical activity, including confidence, motivation, and perceived competence, as well as assessing their wellbeing. They are now developing schools based interventions to improve those skills while taking various psychological and environmental factors into account. They will also ascertain the best ways to upskill teachers and coaches.

The team have been well received in schools. All of the teachers surveyed rated the research as, “extremely important,” or, “very important.”

Teacher Nicola O’Connor said, “The team were incredibly professional and the children thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the research. It was great to see them so engaged and enjoying exercise.”

After testing the children’s abilities, researchers will create an intervention which will be adopted in schools and delivered by DCU and Insight researchers as well as Coaching Officers from the GAA from September 2017.