Exergaming is becoming a popular method of getting people active, but is it enough?
Better make some room in the living room. Kids and adults alike may need the floor space as they opt for the active benefits of exergames, which are often marketed as a solution to excessive couch potato habits. But can activities like video game exercise replace our old-fashioned notions of physical fitness?
What is exergaming?
Exergaming refers to video games that typically involve motion capturing, where players move their bodies to manipulate game controls. Often, these games aim to simulate fitness activities such as skiing, tennis, and bike- riding. The goal is to get people moving, reversing the traditional notion of video games as a sedentary activity.
Does exergaming make for an active lifestyle?
Well no—but it is better than the vegetative states typical of our indoor couch activities.
According to a recent Michigan State University study, exergaming may not be the best solution to physical inactivity, but it could be an improvement.
The problem with exergaming is that it only provides light- to-moderate intensity physical activity, which doesn’t compare to real forms of exercise that elevate heart rates and induce heavy breathing. The study looked at 41 other active video game studies, but only three of them proved exergaming to be effective in increasing physical activity.
But for those who don’t engage in any real-life exercise, exergaming could provide a first step to being somewhat active, and may eventually lead to proper exercise practices. And for some demographic populations such as seniors, or those in rehabilitation programs, light-to-moderate exercise may be all that’s needed.
Still, Wei Peng, associate professor of telecommunication, information studies, and media, suggests that exergaming by itself isn’t a good approach, and that it would be more effective as part of a larger structured program where more people are involved.
Physical inactivity in Canada
According to a recent report published by Queen’s University, the total health care costs for physical inactivity in Canada for 2009 was $6.8 billion.
Researchers from the study also estimate the amount of time playing video games also increased dramatically from 1 hour 48 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes per day.
In another recent report, Active Healthy Kids Canada (AHKC) failed Canadian youths on their daily physical activity. The report identifies that only seven percent of children and youth meet Canada’s guidelines for a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
AHKC estimate children and youth get an average of seven hours and 48 minutes of time in front of a screen per day. Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day.
Some tried-and-true, old-fashioned fitness strategies
- “Fight Night at the Gym”
- “Pick Up the Pace”
- “Kick Up Your Workout (Play soccer for fitness)”