Do your kids prefer their video games to a game of catch? Are you hooked on games, too-and stuck on the couch? As video games have grown in number and popularity, so have the waist sizes of their players. But with the emergence of active products such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution, video game naysayers-and even some medical professionals-are realizing these electronic gadgets may actually have health benefits.
Burning Calories Indoors
Rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in U.S. children and adults are rising. One reason is lack of exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids should exercise 60 minutes each day, and adults should work out for 150 minutes each week. But most adults and children don't reach these recommended amounts.
"Active" video games may help change this. These games can turn your living room into a tennis court or dance hall. Instead of sitting on the couch, participants in an active game stand up and physically interact with images on screen. With the Nintendo Wii, for example, players take part in virtual reality sports games such as boxing, golf, and tennis, swinging the remote control like they would a real racquet or golf club. An accessory to the console, the Wii Fit, helps players improve their fitness by participating in balance and yoga exercises, among others. Another game, called Dance Dance Revolution, encourages participants to practice their moves by following on-screen dance steps.
While these active games are relatively new to the scene, studies are under way to evaluate their use as exercise tools-and the results are beginning to come in. One study, reported in Pediatrics, found that active video games doubled participants' energy expenditure compared with seat-based screen time. Another study, reported in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that activity-promoting video games have the potential to increase energy expenditure in both children and adults. Still other studies have shown that the calories children burn when they play active video games are comparable to those burned in moderate to vigorous physical activities such as brisk walking, skipping, jogging, and climbing stairs.
Research into the possible benefits of using active video games as a rehabilitation tool, dubbed Wiihab, is also under way, but results are pending. Current studies are examining how the games might relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease or help the elderly avoid falls.
In one study recently reported in Physical Therapy, researchers used the Wii sports games with a teenage boy with cerebral palsy. They found the games helped him control his posture, react to visual cues, and walk with crutches.
Video games have indeed come a long way in helping players be physically active. They're not a substitute for a regular workout, but they are helping couch potatoes get a little exercise indoors.
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Encourage teenage family members to exercise with an active holiday gift. Physical activity can better a teen's mind and body. One study found that very active kids do better in school. Exercise also helps relieve mild depression and increases self-esteem.
Here are a few gift ideas to get teens moving.
Americans ages eight to 18 spend on average nearly 6.5 hours per day in front of a TV, computer, video game or other media. But by giving an active gift, you can help teens find fun ways to get moving-for life!