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 Joe Wicks, the internet fitness influencer, trying some hurling with principal Seán Lyons after he took part in a 20 minutes workout with pupils and staff during his visit to St Anthony's. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Joe Wicks, the internet fitness influencer, trying some hurling with principal Seán Lyons after he took part in a 20 minutes workout with pupils and staff during his visit to St Anthony's. Picture: Denis Minihane.
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Joe Wicks, TJ Reid and Orlagh Farmer have a positive fitness influence on kids 

TWO weeks ago, Joe Wicks’ YouTube series peaked with nearly one million viewers tuning in at 9am for one of his live kids' workout.

Wicks, better known as the ‘Body Coach’, is a popular fitness influencer and personal trainer who has dutifully taken on the role of the world’s PE teacher; in the first week of his morning exercise sessions, he drew in more than 15 million viewers.

With those kinds of numbers, Wicks has been inundated with offers to bring the show to TV, with Channel 4 reportedly looking to sign the 33-year-old up.

However, appearing on BBC Radio 2, Wicks admitted that he’d rather keep the show open to everyone. “I have decided I want to stay on YouTube,” he said. “Because I want it to have a global reach.” 

Joe Wicks with pupils of St Anthony's. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Joe Wicks with pupils of St Anthony's. Picture: Denis Minihane.

That wasn’t a surprise because some of the most recent statistics underline how live streaming is radically changing the viewing culture; six out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV; by 2025, half of viewers under 32 will not subscribe to a pay-TV service; YouTube is the second most popular social media platform with 1.9bn users; we watch over one billion hours of YouTube videos a day, more than Netflix and Facebook video combined; 70% of YouTube views come from mobile devices.

It’s easy to see why those stats demonstrate the amazing reach online video has on an audience, and how marketers are targeting that audience; the number of channels earning six figures each year on YouTube has increased by 40% year on year; viewers who complete TrueView ads - watched to completion or at least 30 seconds - were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand channel.

Fitness has certainly boarded that train but the drive to reach a wider audience has never been more important during the current crisis, particularly when so many people, and kids, have so much time on their hands at home.

TJ Reid, who runs his own gym in Kilkenny, has turned to video classes to keep business going while his members can't attend in person. In addition, Reid is also running two free Facebook Live classes a week for children, which mixes GAA skills and fitness.

 Kilkenny's TJ Reid also owns a gym and is providing online sessions for kids. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Kilkenny's TJ Reid also owns a gym and is providing online sessions for kids. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

When Reid ran his class last Thursday, some of his exercises were football related. He was using a football like a medicine ball but he also incorporated some football skills into the session.

“It might seem funny that a hurler from Kilkenny is coaching football,” said Reid. “But I won two Junior football championships with Ballyhale.” 

Yet Reid fully appreciates that he is reaching an audience far wider than just the hurling community. "It's going from Ireland to places like New York and Texas,” he said. “I’m getting tweets and messages on social media from all over the world.” 

GAA stars are fully aware now of the impact of their voice, and how far it can reach. In recent weeks, Cork’s Orlagh Farmer has been posting a daily video for aspiring and current footballers to work on the basic skills of the game, along with delving into the world of Chinese martial arts with Tai Chi.

In completing her PhD – the Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation of the Gaelic4Girls intervention – Farmer’s research is heavily involved in promoting sport, particularly for girls.

 Cork's Orlagh Farmer and Caoimhe Moore celebrate after the winning the league. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Cork's Orlagh Farmer and Caoimhe Moore celebrate after the winning the league. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

As part of her PhD research at UCC’s Department of Sports Studies and Physical Education, Farmer came to some stark conclusions. One of the main ones was that only about 20% of young girls reach the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.

The research also highlighted a skills deficiency in fundamental movements, with less than 2% fully proficient in running, jumping, skipping and hopping.

Most of those problems are manifesting themselves earlier now than ever before. Taken from a report last year titled ‘Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) the national longitudinal study of children’, the data showed that one in five 5-year olds in Ireland were either overweight or obese.

Based on interviews with more than 9,000 families conducted when the children were nine months, three years and five years old, the study showed that of those who had been overweight at three, 51% were overweight or obese at five. It also revealed that those who had been obese at three, 75% were overweight or obese at age five.

The fact that nearly half of those who had been overweight at age three were non-overweight by age five shows that improvement is possible. Yet the trends show how overweight and obesity is following children as they get older.

Research by the World Obesity Federation predicts that 241,000 schoolchildren in Ireland will be overweight or obese by 2025. As many as 9,000 will have impaired glucose intolerance; 2,000 will have type-2 diabetes; 19,000 will have high blood pressure; 27,000 will have first stage fatty liver disease.

Childhood obesity is a complex problem with a range of causes. And society needs to take a long-term and multi-faceted approach to effectively tackle the problem.

Those interventions and actions must begin as early as possible. Diet is critical but the best way to start is to encourage children to exercise more.

The recent lockdown has at least given kids a chance to do some exercise. Much of it is being done in family living rooms but the power of online streaming is that the class can be given from Cork, Kilkenny, London, or anywhere in the world.