Science & Research

Dr. Dean Kriellaars

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012

When it comes to grade school, numeracy and literacy are the first two items on the learning to-do list. If Dr. Dean Kriellaars has his way, physical literacy will be number three on that list.

In fact, it's very likely that will soon be the case at schools across Canada. The professor at the University of Manitoba's School of Medical Rehabilitation is working with PHE Canada and Sport for Life to help foster physical literacy in curricula across the country.

As part of the effort, he has developed a series of instructional videos for teachers to demonstrate how the basics of physical literacy - those chiefly being running, jumping, catching, throwing - should be taught in a classroom.

This may seem elementary - something all kids should acquire naturally - but it's increasingly not the case. And that's bad news for young children.

Studies have found that inactivity increases the risk of developing many life-threatening illnesses later in life, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. "Forty-two different diseases are related to a lack of physical activity," says Kriellaars.

Studies have also demonstrated that adequate exercise can dramatically reduce the risk of many diseases. That's 60 minutes of moderate to difficult physical exercise a day for kids and 150 minutes every week for adults. "That means you're huffing and puffing, and those are the minimum amounts."

Kriellaars says most Canadians don't even come close to the minimum level of exercise. And a poor, life-long attitude toward fitness starts early, often between Grades 3 and 6. If children don't get in the habit of being active before age 12, they likely won't have the basic physical literacy tools to maintain good health later in life, he says.

It's not just a glum prognosis for children, it's an ill omen for our health-care system overall. As our population ages, the health-care system will be increasingly stretched to provide services.

Kriellaars says physical exercise is our silver bullet of prevention. And that regular exercise mindset has to start in the classroom because the education system is the only framework that can widely promote physical literacy to maintain lifelong health. "If it can't do the job for us, then we have no real way to reverse the tide."

Wave: November / December 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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