I recently visited Marton Public School with Education Minister Rob Stokes, where a new physical education programmed called iPLAY has been trialed. I am pleased these students are among the first students to benefit from the program.

Researchers revealed strong evidence had found the PE program was improving aerobic fitness and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

The iPlay program aims to get students to do 150 minutes of high quality physical activity per week.  Activity includes 2-3 classroom “energiser breaks”, physically active homework once a week, after-school physical activity at least once a week and physical activity during recess and lunch.

An initial trial involving 460 students in eight NSW public schools whose teachers undertook the iPLAY training found the students involved increased their aerobic fitness by more than 20 per cent over the 12-month period.

In iPLAY schools, fewer than 8 per cent of children had aerobic fitness levels that were poor enough to place them in the at-risk category for cardiovascular disease following the trial. This compared with schools in the study that did not receive iPLAY training where 16 per cent of children were below this threshold.

The iPLAY initiative has the potential to deliver long-term benefits in health outcomes as physical inactivity was one of the risk factors for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

At a time when we are witnessing a marked decline in physical activity amongst children, these early trial results are incredible.

The program also has the potential to improve student academic performance as research shows physical activity can enhance student concentration – in short iPLAY gives students fitness and focus.

Evidence suggests that positive engagement with physical activity in the first years of schooling can put students on a lifelong active pathway.

The iPLAY strategy is to get teachers equipped to improve the quality of their PE lessons through an online course, workshops and a mentoring program.

The successful iPLAY results in the early trial are now being tested in a larger study with 20,000 NSW students in 87 schools, and expanding to 150 schools.