Fredericton — New Brunswick has long struggled with childhood obesity; over the years, many solutions have been proposed, but none have succeeded. This trend may change with Dean Kriellaars, an exercise physiologist at the University of Manitoba who has identified the cause of childhood obesity.
He says that New Brunswick kids are not simply obese; they actually suffer a condition known as “Outdoor Deficit Disorder,” or ODD. “Kids aren’t playing outside anymore,” he told The Manatee Monday. “Because of ODD, they are incapable of performing outdoor activities like hide-and-seek and tag, activities that you or I might accomplish with ease.”
Fortunately, says Kriellaars, there the solution to ODD lies in something called “Physical Literacy.”
“It’s a way to shed light on daunting tasks like jump-rope, running, hopping and climbing,” he said. “Children don’t have the vocabulary for these activities. Take leg muscles for example. If kids don’t know the difference between their vastus lateralis and their vastus medialis, how can they use them? And if they can’t use muscles of the vastus family, how can they jump-rope? This is essentially why kids aren’t active or develop ODD. They don’t have the background knowledge. And if there is one thing we know about kids, it is that they never try anything new until they first read and understand all off its literary and technical components.”
Kriellaars says too many children rush into the complicated and dangerous field of play.
“Kids have got to get out of the gym and into the classroom,” he explained. “In gym class, we force children with ODD to ‘be active and play.’ But this is just too ambiguous. Sure, it gets them up and about for the necessary half-hour of physical activity children require every day … but then what? They don’t know what to do next, so they don’t do anything or they end up getting hurt. That is why the first step to defeating ODD is getting children excited about physical activity from the safety of the classroom, rather than the dangers of the gym.”
Kriellaars proposed his physical literacy plan at a recent conference in Fredericton and he is already gaining academic support.
“I am very excited about Kriellaars’ work,” said Dr. Geoffry Bacon, a professor of kinesiology at University New Brunswick. “It seems so obvious now. Kids don’t know how to play. Therefore, they need to be taught how by working experts like Kriellaars and myself, who have suffered hard, long years of strenuous academia.”
Parents in the province are also responding well to Kriellaars’ proposals.
Anne Jameson, a resident of Chipman, had this to say: “I think it’s great. My son was recently diagnosed with ODD; up until then I had no idea what his problem was. I would tell him to go outside, and he would say he didn’t feel like it. Then he’d start talking about problems at school or with friends — problems I had no idea how solve. Thanks to Kriellaars, I don’t have to think about those problems anymore because I now know he suffers from ODD. So, I’ve put him on a full dose of physical literacy and I am excited to see results.”