A new report published today recommends that schools take a more friendly approach to physical activity, particularly when it comes to uniform policy.

The Youth Stakeholder Forum for Sport suggests that strict and inflexible uniform rules impede student activity levels, especially among female students.

The report follows a day of deliberations held in May, which involved athletes and sports organisations, the Minister for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers, and close to 100 young people from across the island of Ireland.

The aim of the study was to better understand participation levels in sport, physical activity, and physical education (PE), as well as the impact of sport and physical activity on physical, mental and social health of children through rounds of discussion.

In the school setting, uncomfortable uniforms were raised as a barrier to participating in sport.

Students expressed frustration with the insufficient amount of time, and the scope of PE activities that they said were available in their schools. They said that often only a handful of sports, especially major field sports, would be focused on.

There was too much emphasis on team sports and more attention should be given to individual or less popular sports, they said.

Students also said that they wanted to see a greater focus in PE about the science and facts around physical activity.

The report found that there was acknowledgement by all that young people are not getting enough physical activity, and that this is a problem that needs to be urgently addressed.

Presenter of the documentary Why Girls Quit Sport, former Cork camogie captain Anna Geary said: "If you are saying yes to the stiff rigid uniform, you are saying no to the opportunity for younger people to move around more."

She said the Health Service Executive daily physical exercise guidelines say that people should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day but the vast majority of younger people are not getting that amount of exercise.

"If they are spending a large portion of their day in school, we should be facilitating movement in every opportunity possible and if that means changing a uniform, I think we should all be in favour of that."

She said Ireland has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world and every effort should be made to give young people the opportunity to exercise.

Speaking about the findings of the report, secondary school teacher at Coláiste Iognáid in Galway and former Galway All-Ireland winning football captain, Ray Silk, said unless it can be proven that learning and teaching is better in a school that has a uniform, he does not see the need for it.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said not having uniforms allowed for students to freely express themselves.

Mr Silk said a lot of students might not feel comfortable in a uniform, and some female students, particularly going into a PE class "at a particular time of the month as well, might not be comfortable taking off a full skirt etc, to transfer into gym gear".

He also said that if female students are cycling or walking to school, they might not feel comfortable in a school uniform.

Principal of East Glendalough School in Wicklow town Craig Petrie said his school has a strict uniform policy.

He said that although the school is small, "we are across five, six, seven different sports - boys and girls - and we have had a huge amount of participation and have maintained that the last few years".

As a result, he said, the school does not have any evidence that school uniforms hinder participation in sport.

However, he said that the Education Student and Parent Charter Bill will give students an even greater voice around this issue and a uniform policy is not something that the school is completely married to.

"The world is moving away from needing a shirt and tie when you leave school and go into an office situation and I think students are going to be making themselves heard on that in the next number of years."

Mr Petrie said that he thinks as a country, rather than individual schools, this is a conversation that needs to be held with students.

On the other hand, he raised the question that if school uniforms do not exist, all students will not feel comfortable attending school in a tracksuit.