Doubts on whether the bleep test is a safe way of testing student fitness levels

By Adam Higgins


A DCU lecturer has shown that Irish teenagers are among the fittest in Europe using the controversial bleep test.

Over 8,600 twelve to thirteen year olds from 125 schools across the country took part in the First Year Fitness Challenge, an initiative spearheaded by our own Prof Niall Moyna.

The results of the programme were documented on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation and showed that Irish boys are in the top 30% of fitness in Europe, while girls are among the top 20%.

The First Year Fitness Challenge was run by DCU and RTÉ Radio One’s The John Murray Show. Speaking on the show last Wednesday, Prof Moyna said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the results.

However the test used to measure the fitness levels of the students has recently come under some controversy.

The bleep test consists of a series of 20 metre shuttle runs, ran against a timer on a radio or laptop in the PE hall.

PE inspectors with the Department of Education and Skills have recommended against using the test because of the exertion placed on the students during it.

Lee O’Reilly of the Physical Education Association of Ireland, and a practicing PE teacher for the past ten years, is personally against the use of the bleep test in secondary schools.

“I myself no longer use the bleep test. It pushes students to the limit which puts them in danger of injuring themselves.”

Mr O’Reilly now uses the three minute step test or the Harvard step test as an alternative. However, the bleep test is used by professional sports men and women all across the world.

Director of the athletics committee here in DCU, Enda Fitzpatrick, believes that the bleep test is a very useful benchmark for accessing fitness levels.

“It is something people can test themselves against. People can use it as a yardstick to measure where they are for fitness. However, it can be overused.”

The bleep test is only dangerous when used in the wrong way, if it is only done once and never returned to.

Prof Moyna began the First Year Fitness Programme with the bleep test and then after weeks of training the students did the test again to gauge their improvement.

Despite its somewhat controversial issues most agree that the bleep test is still a relevant exercise with a place in physical education.

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