If it’s too hot or too wet to go outside, there’s always exergaming.
We’re always hearing about kids getting fatter and fatter due to too much junk food and not enough exercise. In the ideal world kids would be outside playing cricket with the other kids on the street, kicking a footy or knocking on your neighbours’ doors and running away. But depending on where you live, daylight hours time commitments, the weather and your neighbour’s sense of humour, it’s sometimes just not possible to get active in the great outdoors.
Spending their leisure time sitting around watching TV and playing computer games is also blamed for rising childhood obesity. But child and adolescent health professionals are increasingly promoting the idea that gaming can be used for good instead of evil.
Enter the realm of exergaming: interactive games that make you exercise. Nintendo’s Wii
is synonymous with active gaming, allowing you take part in a huge range of activities including sports (tennis, golf, boxing, volleyball…), martial arts, aerobics, yoga, snowboarding and dancing games. Its movement and position sensitive Wii Remote revolutionised interactive gaming, while its balance board allowed monitoring of whole body movements.
The addition of a camera and other add-ons (eg. a dance mat or bike) turns your Sony Playstation or Xbox 360 into an active gaming station as well, and there are PC add-ons like PCGamerbike, which require gamers to pedal to move characters.
Health professionals are certainly taking notice, and have conducted clinical trials comparing energy expenditure playing these games with other activities.
As you’d expect, even the most simple “active” games, like ten-pin bowling, use more energy than joystick games – and something is better than nothing. Meanwhile, depending on the level, Dance Dance Revolution has an energy-burning capability ranging from an easy walk to a high-impact aerobic session.
While outdoor activity involving a variety of different forms of movement is preferable, experts agree there’s a place for these games in getting kids moving more.
So it all sounds great in theory, but I can’t help wondering how it pans out in real life. The potential for improved physical condition is there, but I wonder if anyone has actually achieved it: is there a Dance Dance Revolution equivalent of the Subway Guy out there?
If you or your kids have played these games, do you reckon they give good exercise?