Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Future of Children's Fitness - Exergaming

For the last week, my fitness trainers and I have been lucky enough to train three of the hardest working and most athletic NFL athletes – Jerome Couplin III of the Detroit Lions, Shaq Rowell of the Carolina Panthers and Will Clarke of the Cincinnati Bengals.  We created an athletic conditioning, balance and visual motor function workout (“EDGE Training”) for athletes that uses the latest exergaming technology.

But, exergaming isn’t just beneficial for professional athletes or adults; it can also get kids excited about fitness.
Does your child like video games, but dislikes “exercising”?  Combine the two for a great workout!

I will admit that the notion of using technology and video games to increase children’s fitness is controversial.  After all, many believe that the rampant playing of video games has led to increases in childhood obesity.  But, I believe, that we can use something that kids love – video gaming – to get children and teens excited about physical fitness.
Let’s take a look at demographics.  Today’s youth are growing up in a world of amazing technological advances that change daily.  Generation Y (born between 1983 and 2001) make up about 95 million people.  Generation Z (born beginning 2001) has a population of approximately 25 million people.  Together, they account for 40% of our current population – a population that has seen the advent of iPhones, Game Boys, Wii and Kinect.  This population uses technology in every facet of their lives.  Why not fitness?

In a study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the effects of “exergaming” – the term for combining technology/video gaming and exercising which relies on tracking body movements and reactions using the latest technology - on children.
Dr. Louise Naylor and researchers from The University of Western Australia, Liverpool John Moores University, and Swansea University evaluated 15 children, 9-11 years of age, who participated in 15 minutes each of high intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports -- 200m Hurdles), low intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports -- Ten Pin Bowling), and a graded exercise test (treadmill). The researchers measured energy expenditure and cardio function.

They found that, “high intensity exergaming elicited an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate intensity exercise; low intensity exergaming resulted in an energy expenditure equivalent to low intensity exercise.”  Additionally, the high intensity exergaming increased heart rate and the amount of energy and calories burned. Participants reported similar enjoyment levels with both intensities of exergaming, which indicates that children may be equally likely to continue playing the high intensity games – if it’s fun.
According to Dr. Naylor, "Higher intensity exergaming may be a good form of activity for children to use to gain longterm and sustained health benefits." These findings also support the growing notion that high intensity activity is beneficial for children's health, and high intensity exergaming should be considered a means of encouraging children to become more active.  Thus, combating childhood obesity.

Do I think exergaming is beneficial?  You bet!  And, I’ve seen the positive effects firsthand for both kids and adults.  It's that feeling that you're playing a game - not working out - which is at the heart of exergaming's popularity.
I look at exergames as stealth exercise.  Whether a player uses a dance game, a geo-tracking app on their iPhone or pretends to be playing in the World Cup using Wii, he/she is getting exercise without realizing it and having fun.  And, shouldn’t working out be fun in order to capture a child’s ongoing attention?

Would you or your child like an athletic EDGE?  Fitness for Health’s EDGE Training works on mental processing, balance, proprioception, motor planning, motor sequencing, visual motor function and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology. All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.  Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn more about our EDGE Training.

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