Childhood Obesity and Games, Part 9

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Dance Dance Revolution isn’t exactly Grand Theft Auto, but is a game in the sense that a player accumulates points by hitting spots on a special mat, according to the directions issued by a video console.

Back in 2010, researchers at West Virginia University were very impressed by the results obtained when kids rocked out with DDR five days a week for half an hour a day over a three-month period. These were 7- to 12-year-olds who were already classified as either overweight or obese. A USA Today story reported:

The dancing provided a moderate to vigorous workout, halted weight gain in the children and improved their fitness, blood pressure and arterial function…

The intention was to make DDR available in all of the state’s elementary, middle and high schools. The study began with the middle and upper grades but unfortunately ran out of funding before all the elementary schools could be supplied with equipment and teacher training.

One question that interested the scientists at the time was whether active gaming could sufficiently boost a child’s self-confidence to inspire her or him to try other physical activities that may have been shunned previously. They also sought to confirm whether academic performance could actually be improved by the use of active video games before tests in subjects such as math and spelling. From San Diego State University’s Active Living Research Program, director James Sallis told the reporter he was interested in the usefulness of active games as pre-test activities to improve kids’ attention and concentration.

Although nobody was suggesting that exergaming should take the place of traditional PE programs in schools, some educators seemed to be concerned about that unwelcome possibility. At any rate, the question became moot when the lack of money curtailed further research beyond the pilot study.

New Mexico State University is at the center of an effort to provide a sort of clearinghouse for information on active video gaming.  The literature says:

The Exergames Unlocked project includes a multi-state team of accomplished media education researchers, exercise physiologists, medical professionals and doctoral students. Contributing members are researchers in their fields and have helped launch the use of exergames as tools to combat obesity in their communities and beyond. New Mexico State University researchers and their partners have been funded to research the impact of exergames, develop specific recommendations for exergame use, and implement exergaming programs.

The Game Reviews section includes feedback from users and professionals on such active games as Just Dance, ABBA You Can Dance, Kinect Sports, The Smurfs, ExerBeat and Gold’s Gym Dance Workout.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Video games help schools get kids moving, exercising more,” USAToday.com, 10/11/10
Source: “Training Information,” WVU.edu
Source: “About Us,”
Image by Tom Page

 

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