A blog by runners. For runners.

Exergaming: how video games can get kids fit

exergaming-video-game-exerciseMy son is just a toddler but I already get it. Here I am, day after day, wondering how I can get him some exercise when it’s 100 degrees outside. I started researching ideas and came across an option for when he’s older: exergaming or active video games.

I know, I know. Video games get a bad rap for promoting sedentary activity. But to win at exergaming, kids have to be physically active.

The scoop on active video games

Active video and computer games promote physical activity by getting kids moving. Traditional video games rely solely on handheld remote controls to play the game. So, the user just sits down and only his or her fingers get a workout. But in exergaming, the user must move his or her body to play. For example:

  • Some dance games, such as Dance Dance Revolution, require players to follow fun, fast dance steps to score points. Some versions of dance games tell users how many calories they burned at the end.
  • Other gaming systems, like the Wii, let users play virtual sports. Depending on the game, the remote control can be used as a racquet, baseball bat, Frisbee, kayak paddle, or bowling ball. Other games let you simulate wakeboarding or karate. In some of these games, users can compete against other game players. Their competitor can be in the same room or across the country.

Winning at exergaming

Studies show active video games get kids’ heart rates up, improve physical fitness, increase metabolism and calorie burning, control weight, and ease stress. Plus, new research says the newest generation of active video games may give kids even more activity.

But exergames aren’t just an option for when the weather is unfavorable for outdoor exercise. Active video games are also a good outlet for children who otherwise wouldn’t exercise, such as kids who don’t enjoy sports and those who don’t have a safe place to be active. For children who are shy about their weight or ability to play sports, active video games can offer them an uninhibited way to get moving.

Experts suggest replacing your child’s existing video games or video game system with an exergaming system. Doing so will help reduce your child’s sedentary time and increase his or her active time – a win, win for good health.

As much as I hope that my son will come to love exercise one day, that may not be the reality. But there’s a good chance he’ll enjoy playing video games. And with exergaming, he may not mind exercising. It’s the best of both worlds.

Do your children play active video games? What are your thoughts on them?

Written by Jen Matz

Related: WalkJogRun Guide to Active Families