|Kids playing Sportwall|
According to a new study in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, "exergaming" is "interactive digital exercise that features player movement." Games you may know of this ilk include Dance, Dance, Revolution; LightSpace; Nintendo's Wii, Sportwall; and Xavix to name a few.
Part of me wonders if this encouragement of electronically based indoor activity is the equivalent of the smartboard replacing the black (or white) board, when we all know that kids need to get outside, enjoy nature, and discover their bodies in the big open spaces (see my June 30 blog post
So I was curious to see the conclusions of this ingenious study conducted with middle school after school programs in Boston, Massachusetts. Most of the games resulted in increases of energy expenditure over the equivalent of walking at 3 miles per hour. The researchers also studied enjoyment of these activities and interestingly discovered that kids with higher BMI values actually got more fun out of them. "Such a result," says an editorial in the same journal, "suggests that exergames may be an attractive mode of activity for overweight and obese adolescents." The authors discuss ways to promote longterm use of the games as a means of exercise since even in this study--with lots of encouragement and followup-- use fell off over time. One suggestion is the idea of using games at home and in group activities in an after school, gym or club setting. Religious groups, scout troups, gyms with teen programs, and even day camps with rainy day activities might be interested in investing in this technology.
Although pediatricians generally want to promote outdoor activities, the authors and editors of this journal article maintain that exergames "can contribute to daily physical activity, their purchase encourages the electronics industry to invest more heavily in innovation and promotion of such games, and they could help keep adolescents fit enough to enjoy doing other forms of physical activity."
In my experience there are very few acceptable activities for the non-athletic overweight adolescent who more than most needs a fun, acceptable and sustainable form of safe exercise. Wouldn't it be great if our schools health programs could team up with athletics to purchase and promote a program that would do just that!