Fitness video games compare well to traditional exercise

Although I was initially opposed to the idea, my wife recently decided to purchase a Nintendo Wii gaming system for our 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Like many school-age children, our two sons already seem to have more sports classes, academic classes outside of school, and play dates than they ever have time to attend. (Oh, and let’s not forget the daily rush of homework they bring home every night from school!) However, after being rejected by my wife, I resigned myself to another (TV-centric) distraction for that our children take care of her. with each day.

Shortly after installing the Wii gaming system in our home, our two children were happily immersed in playing various fantasy games with each other, hopping around our living room while grabbing the wireless remotes, screaming and laughing the entire time. Every now and then, despite my feigned lack of interest in his new toy, I also found myself drawn to a vigorous game of bowling or Wii table tennis. While playing these and other Wii games with our hyperkinetic 9 year old daughter, I really found myself sweating a bit in the process! Soon after, we also purchased some additional “Wii Fitness” sets, including a “step pad” that allows players to perform step exercises with a group of imaginary partners. And then I watched, with some amusement, as our rambunctious 9-year-old daughter energetically leapt off the platform along with her imaginary friends, clapping and waving her arms in the process.

While I still have some reservations about having a video game system in our house, I was impressed that our exercise-averse kids found an entertaining way to burn off some extra calories using Wii fitness games. This week’s Health Research Review column therefore focuses on the potential health benefits that may be associated with fitness-related video games (“exergames”), including the Nintendo Wii system we have. in our living room.

A recently published clinical research study, appearing in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, I was looking to actually measure the number of calories burned while playing video-based “exergames.” In this study, 39 boys and girls (the average age was 12 years) were asked to play several different fitness-related video games. These games include Dance Dance Revolution, Light Space Bug Invasion, Nintendo Wii Boxing, Cybex Trazer Goalie Wars, Sportwall, and Xavix J-Mat. These children were also asked to walk on a treadmill at a rate of 3 miles per hour (mph). Using standardized metabolic measurement equipment, energy expenditure associated with these physical activities was measured in “task equivalent metabolic values” (or “mets”).

At a time when obesity is rampant among adults and children alike, the findings of this new study have further diminished my reservations regarding the Nintendo Wii gaming system that now resides in our living room. First, the six different measured activities significantly raised these children’s energy expenditure above resting levels. Walking at a moderate speed of 3 mph on a treadmill resulted in an average energy expenditure of 4.9 meters. In comparison, while playing Wii Boxing, these kids averaged 4.2 mets. The energy expenditure of the remaining four “exergames” was even more impressive: 5.4 mets for Dance Dance Revolution, 5.9 mets for Cybex Trazer Goalie Wars, 6.4 mets for Light Space Bug Invasion, 7.0 mets for Xavix J-Mat and 7.1 mets for Sportwall.

The findings of this study are very impressive. Just to put into perspective the measured energy expenditures noted with the six activities evaluated in this clinical research study, moderate physical activity, which includes activities such as walking at a brisk pace, swimming, and biking at a moderate pace, is associated with an average energy expenditure of 3 to 6 meters. Vigorous physical activity, which includes activities such as jogging, mountain climbing, individual tennis, or biking uphill, involves an energy expenditure of more than 6 mets. All five of these “exergames” were associated with an energy expenditure level of at least “moderate physical activity”, while three of these game systems were actually associated with levels of “vigorous physical activity” more commonly associated with levels intense aerobic exercise.

As we grapple with the increasing incidence of obesity among an increasingly sedentary generation of boys and girls in the United States and in many other countries around the world, the use of “exergames,” such as those evaluated in this clinical research study, can offer our children the opportunity to combine the video games that many of them love to play with levels of exercise that were previously associated with high intensity sports that are increasingly being eliminated from school and after school physicals. fitness programs. The findings of this important study strongly suggest that it is possible to combine video games with significant levels of exercise, and in a format that many children will find entertaining and fun. So in the end, my wife’s decision to buy the Nintendo Wii console may not have been such a bad idea after all …

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