Ready, Steady, Bring Back Play!

Monday 31 February, 2014. As part of the campaign to take on childhood obesity, safefood is urging parents to ‘Bring Back Play’ and encourage their children to be more active every day. At present, 4 out of 5 Irish children¹ do not meet the physical activity guideline of being active for at least 60 minutes a day. The latest advertising for the campaign is emphasising the value of including physical activity whenever families can and that all activity adds up towards the recommended 60 minutes a day for children.

Supporting the call to ‘Bring Back Play’, Professor Niall Moyna, Centre for Preventive Medicine at the School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University said Worryingly, most children are not getting enough physical activity and 3 out of 4 adults don’t get enough either. However we also know from research² that children are more likely to be more active if their parents are active as well. This is one of the great life skills that parents can pass on to their children, as well as being something they can participate in themselves. For children, being active for 60 minutes doesn’t have to be all in one burst nor does it have to be organised sport – it could be 10 minutes skipping, 15 mins running or kicking a ball – it all adds up. Any amount of activity is better than none.”  

At present, approximately 1 in 4 primary³ school children are overweight or obese. The prevalence of excess weight is also beginning earlier in childhood⁴, with 6% of 3 year olds currently being obese.

We also know that being active is critical to children’s physical and mental development. Encouraging play is easier than we think and is a great way of spending fun time together as a family,” Professor Moyna continued.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood continues “All activity especially playing in the garden or playground, active games like hide and seek or organised sports – they all count. Active play for children is instinctive; we just need to ‘bring it back’. Our childhood obesity campaign provides parents with advice on practical changes they can make for their families’ health. Incorporating activity into your daily routine, for example promoting active ways for children to travel to school, is key to success. Children who get their 60 minutes plus daily have healthier sleep and eating habits too. And with the clocks going forward this weekend, it’s also a great time of the year to start new family habits.”

Dr Cate Hartigan, Head of Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE said “Parents want what is best for their children and getting more active is something that families can do together, without it having to cost any money. It’s also a great way to spend time with your children, to help them learn healthy habits, and to stay connected to them and their day to day lives. Our Get Ireland Active website provides a range of fun games and activities that parents can introduce with ease. We’re delighted to support this new phase of the campaign, and to work with safefood to support families to enjoy a healthy and active life.’

Ms Kate O’Flaherty, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health added that “the Department of Health and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport are co-chairing a working group comprised of representatives of a range of stakeholders with an interest and an expertise in physical activity to develop a National Plan for Physical Activity. Attention is focused on operational issues aimed at encouraging greater participation in, and greater recognition of the importance of, physical activity. The National Plan will provide a strong focus for modifying unhealthy life habits and promoting awareness of the benefits of physical activity to both physical and mental health for all ages.”

The three year, all island campaign to take on childhood obesity by safefood in partnership with the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework in the Republic of Ireland and the ‘Fitter Futures for All’ Implementation Plan in Northern Ireland, urges parents to make practical changes to everyday lifestyle habits which would make a big difference to their children’s future health. The campaign also reminds parents about the negative health impacts of excess weight in childhood and how this can impact on a child’s quality of life.

Ms Jill Long, President of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists said, “We support safefood wholeheartedly in their new ‘Bring back play’ Campaign which is very much in line with what we are advocating for children and families by way of physical activity. We strongly encourage parents to recognise themselves as being the most important role models in their child’s life, and guide them as to how they can increase their child's activity. What we often see as Chartered Physiotherapists is that the pattern of inactivity starts in early childhood and continues to worsen as children grow into teenagers and then on into adulthood – so we need to get children of primary school age to be more active on a daily basis for a minimum of one hour.”

The campaign will feature on television, radio, poster advertising and will also be supported on the, Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #bringbackplay.

To find out more about the safefood campaign including tips on how to be more active, fun ideas for active play and advice from physical activity experts, visit

- Ends -

For further information please contact

WHPR: Muireann Kirby 01 6690142 / 086 3710000

Susie Cunningham 01 669 0030 / 087 850 5055

safefood: Dermot Moriarty 01 448 0622 / 086 381 1034


¹ Department of Health and Children, Health Service Executive. The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland (2009).

In Northern Ireland less than half (43.4%) of 7 year olds meet the recommended physical activity guideline.

Griffiths LJ, Cortina-Borja M, Sera F, et al. How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. BMJ Open 2013.

² Cheryl A. Zecevic LT, Tanya Lovsin, Lariviere Michel  Parental Influence on Young Children's Physical Activity. International Journal of Pediatrics 2010.

L. L. Moore DAL, M. J. White, J. L. Campbell, S. A. Oliveria, R. C. Ellison, , . Influence of parent's physical activity levels on activity levels of young children Journal of Pediatrics. 1991

³ Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) Nutrition Surveys (2005); (2012).

⁴ National Pre-School Nutrition Survey (2012).

Editor’s Notes

‘Bring Back Play’ – Key campaign messages

  • Children need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day
  • This doesn’t have to be all in one go – it can be broken down into smaller bursts of 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there
  • All activity counts – whether that’s walking to school or going out to play

The World Health Organization In its most recent briefing on Physical Activity levels (February 2014) stated:

  • Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide.
  • Approximately 3.2 million people die each year due to physical inactivity.
  • Globally, one in three adults is not active enough.
  • Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being physically active has significant health benefits and contributes to prevent NCDs.

For more see

Top tips for being active as a family

  • Make exercise an everyday habit - you don't have to remind your children to brush their teeth every day and being active should be the same - a normal part of the daily routine.
  • Walk or cycle to school if you can. Or walk part of the way or organise a walking bus with other parents.
  • Limit your children's screen time, i.e. the amount of time they spend watching TV, on the computer, iPod or smart phone.
  • Head for the nearest park with the kids and take a ball to kick around or a Frisbee to throw. Start playing games as a family like rounders or tag for younger children.
  • Develop a daily routine where you get the children to go outside where they are much more likely to be active. 
  • Walk to the nearest shops or to visit friends and relatives instead of taking the car. 
  • Bring the dog for a walk or if you don’t have a dog, borrow a neighbour's and offer to walk it for them.
  • If you child likes technology encourage them to look at their activity levels by wearing a pedometer or wrist gadget to measure the distance they walk and the amount of steps they take each day.