Get your groove on

Video games are a popular part of American culture. Recently, video game systems have received a physical makeover. Instead of only exercising your thumbs, many games now encourage gamers of all ages to get up and get moving. Last year, a study at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse was undertaken to see if playing Wii™ Sports is physically beneficial (2008 July/August issue of ACE Fitness Matters).

The study concluded that playing Wii Sports burns approximately 70 percent of the calories burned if the sport actually was played. In addition, playing the game elicits approximately 50 percent of the maximum heart rate as compared to actually playing the sport. This study concluded that Wii games are much better for improving physical fitness than playing conventional video games and actually can improve health. Pretty cool! For those of you not familiar with these video games, here is some info on the most popular activity-focused ones:

The Nintendo Wii™ encourages physical interaction. Wii Sports comes with the purchase of the system and includes the following games: baseball, bowling, boxing, tennis and golf. The unique controller can detect speed and movement in three dimensions allowing it to become a baseball bat or golf club, putting the user directly in the game. Wii Fit is an extension to the Wii system. A balance board weighs each user, measures his or her center of gravity and calculates his or her body mass index. Four different types of exercises are included, with many activities for each: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. The software can measure your body mass index, and chart your fitness progress as you work out. Additional Wii games that get users up and moving include Active Life: Outdoor Challenge, Backyard Football and Big Beach Sports.

Dance Dance Revolution was introduced in 1998 as an arcade game and then adapted for the home user. Players step on colored arrows with their feet in sync to musical beats. At the end of the song, the player is scored on how accurate his or her timing was with each beat. Songs range from simple and slow to difficult and speedy. With larger amounts of time, you can get a real workout. This game now is available on several systems including: Sony PlayStation 2®, Microsoft Xbox® 360 and the Nintendo Wii.

Even though the gaming systems will not provide all the benefits of other physical activities, they may be a starting point for some children or a great cold-weather alternative to outdoor activities.

–Stacy Stolzman, MPT, and Tara Cohen, exercise science student

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