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22 | SPORT September 2013

Smart kids are active kids Exercise

with Mark Sweeney

Wicklow is blessed that it has so many great places for children to enjoy outdoor activities – our woods, parks and beaches are among the best and cleanest in the world. By and large we live in a very safe environment and our kids can play outdoors without us having to be by their sides constantly. It was great to see children of all ages out and about around Wicklow this summer – running, cycling and swimming to their hearts content – but as the kids go back to school and the weather changes, we need to ensure that they stay active. While we can’t expect all our children to be brilliant at sports, we should note that more and more research is confirming the importance of physical activity for the development of young minds. In modern times, less than one-in-five of our children meet the recommendations for health

Having a ball: Jake O’Neill (5) from and Blathnaid Quinn (4) from Co Wicklow enjoying one of Mark’s PlayFit sessions enhancing physical activity: at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, preferably on every day of the week. Numerous studies over the last three years comparing children with high physical activity levels and children with low physical fitness are showing that they are not only physically fitter but perform better academically and in executive functions. Executive functions is a term that includes brain processes such as planning, organising, memory and behavioural

inhibition which includes attention, behaviour and emotions. In addition, inhibitory control in children is shown to be an important predictor of not only academic performance but also physical and mental health in adulthood. It is believed that the positive effects of physical activity on brain function are caused by physiological changes in the body including increased blood flow to the brain and by improving neural networks in the brain. The studies have looked at

celebrated its 40 year anniversary this year to great acclaim. This show strives to encourage young and inexperienced riders to compete as well as catering for more advanced competitors. There is always a fantastic fun element to it with fancy dress competitions and new this year, a Scarecrow Building Competition! All funds raised go to charity. Traditionally the Season drew to a close in September but nowadays there are shows right into November. This month sees the Breeders Classic taking place in Barnadown, Gorey, County Wexford from September 6 to 8. A strong contingent from Wicklow is expected to compete for their share of the spoils. The Breeders Classic is in its second year and provides a showcase for young Irish horses being produced in the country. It features the €50,000

euro five- and six-year-old Irish Breeders Classic. This is the richest young horse class in the world and will attract the top young horses in the country. The prize money is funded by contributions from a wide variety of people and companies who rely on the Irish Sport Horse industry. Riders, Producers of Equitation Products, Farriers, Vets, Horse owners and many more join forces to show how a simple idea can grow to be a huge success. As an added bonus for spectators this year the final of the TRM Horseware Grand Prix League will take place on September 7. This gives people an opportunity to see all of the top riders in action. Side attractions for the family include a Donkey Derby in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, a foal auction, a novelty Dog Show and the National Miniature Horse Championship.

different types of physical activities and have found that aerobic type activities such as running are extremely important in creating high levels of fitness and hence brain efficiency through improved circulation. However, motor skills such as whole body co-ordination have shown to have positive effects on cognitive functions of the brain, with fine motor skills in young children directly relating to reading and maths skills in later life. These findings have particular importance in relation to the obesity epidemic. Studies

suggest that obese children not only have lower fitness levels but also poorer motor skills in comparison to normal weight children. This negative relationship between obesity and cognitive function may be partially explained by poor development of fitness and motor skills through a lack of physically and mentally challenging activities. In fact, there exists the threat that sedentary children may not reach the appropriate level of physical activity to adequately support brain function and development.

In summary, the overwhelming evidence suggests that the more physically active a child is will not only have a positive effect on their general health but can have an equally positive effect on their brain health and function. The key to maximising these positive effects is to ensure that the physical activity is carried out daily and that there is a mixture of aerobic type exercise and challenging motor skills. Below are some examples of each: • ‘Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity’ – these are activities such as walking, running, cycling, swimming whereby your heart and breathing rate increases. • ‘Demanding Motor Skills exercises’ – activities such as gymnastics, specific skills for ball sports, complex jumping patterns (hopscotch!). So even if the weather is changing and the evenings are getting shorter, try to get the kids out for some exercise in Wicklow – you’ll hopefully see the benefits come exam time! Mark Sweeney is a qualified physical therapist and a graduate of both UCD and Trinity, holding a Masters in Exercise Physiology and a BSc in Applied Health studies from the Institute of Physical Therapy and Applied Science. He is the managing director of FitForLife (.ie) and PlayFit (.ie). He is a native of Wicklow and played rugby for Greystones.

Great season so far for showjumping Horses

with Caroline Kennedy It has been a great season so far for showjumping in County Wicklow. The fine weather during the summer months saw the return to popularity of the traditional “grass shows”. These shows provide a fantastic learning experience for horses and riders alike. They also foster great community spirit and the hard work that goes into their organization and running is always greatly appreciated. The County show in Tinahely was an outstanding success again this year and a myriad of activities kept everyone entertained. Founded over seventy years ago the show is one of the longest running agricultural shows in Ireland. It is a great celebration of rural life and an event not to be missed. The Kilmacanogue Show

news inbrief New Classic Race for Wicklow

St Tiernan’s Cycling Club is delighted to announce its return to Open Race Promotion on September 15th 2013 with the St. Tiernan’s Laragh Classic sponsored by Friends First. This pioneering and exciting race will fill an obvious gap in the late season cycling calendar and in the race programme for the Leinster/South East region. Weaving through the heart of the Garden County, the dramatic 24k circuit presents riders with challenging climbs, tough drags and a fast-paced descent through the stunning village of Laragh. The technical and demanding surfaces on

sections of the course promise to give competitors a real test of skill and an authentic taste of European style Classic racing. In addition, the finish, situated just before the T-junction that brings you onto the R763 between Annamoe and Ashford follows a demanding drag which will have the potential to split the fields on the day. “Friends First is delighted to be supporting the inaugural Laragh Classic and together with St Tiernan’s we hope this become a fixture in the Irish Cycling Calendar,” a spokesman said. The race is open to senior men, ladies and juniors within the A3 and A4 race categories. Entries are now open online. For further information on the St Tiernan’s Laragh Classic proudly supported by Friends First please visit www. or contact

Merrill Leisure open weekend

The newly refurbished Merrill Leisure Club is holding an open weekend on the weekend of September 13, 14 and 15, when you can inspect a wide range of weights and cardio equipment, a state of art kinesis wall, and classes that cater for mobility to high intensity needs. Their facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, steam-room, children’s swimming pool and fully equipped gymnasium with kinesis wall. The Merrill Leisure Club also a relaxation area where you can avail of a variety of massages, facials, waxing, eye care, spray tan and many offers on packages and treatments each week.

Wicklow Voice September 2013  

Wicklow's Positive Paper!