Thursday, February 18, 2010

Exergames. Do they equal exercise?

For Christmas my daughters (25yrs & 27 yrs old) ask for the Nintendo Wii with the balance boards and fitness additional components. I figured it couldn't hurt. For my granddaughter I got a Smart Cycle. I don't ever endorse products but since these were so close to home I thought I'd share some research on these and other electronic games which aim to improve fitness.

Popular exergames include Nintendo Wii, Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Below is a look at the evidence for those games that have been studied. Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) requires players to use dance steps to match images on the screen. Dancing becomes harder and faster as the player advances to higher levels. A 2005 study of 11-to-17-year-olds showed that even at the “easiest” levels of the game, players’ heart rates increased enough to provide adequate cardio benefits. Another study of teenagers found that playing DDR doubled participants’ heart rates and sustained an effective aerobic workout for
more than 45 minutes. Yet another study of school-aged children in West Virginia found that many children lost 5-10 pounds after playing DDR every day for several weeks.

In the Groove (a dance game similar to DDR) has been shown to increase students’ mile-run time by 14% after regular use.5 Students playing this game also showed improvements in social skills, academics, attention and self-esteem.


By the way, my granddaughter "loves" the Smart Cycle. According to Mattel for younger children (ages 3 to 6 years old) Fisher-Price’s SmartCycle provides similar health benefits by combining interactive animation technology with a stationary bicycle. The bike plugs directly into a television, and as kids pedal faster, they are guided though educational “adventures” on the screen. I was pleased to know that the early research on the SmartCycle provides moderate cardiovascular and health benefits. I can attest to the educational value as well. Getting exercise and learning can't be all bad. Right? I agree the outside would be even better.