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Healthy Living

From Dance Dance Revolution To Pokemon Go: How Electronic Games And Fitness Have Evolved Into 'Exergaming'

How do you keep healthy habits going when the hype of the game fades?

In 2005, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was a video game designed primarily for arcade entertainment but actually became known for pioneering the concept of total body engagement in a video game. Rather than sitting with a hand-held controller on the couch, DDR required players to stand up and be the controller and score points in the game by moving their feet on a floor mat. DDR quickly became a leader in a games for health trend. It was one of the first electronic games to be looked at as a health tool by researchers, and it was used in school physical education classes and even in classrooms to help students with coordination. Soon after, we saw the Wii Fit game console ― marketed as a fitness tool with games that could help the player lose weight and stay fit. Unlike DDR, the Wii made it possible for players to keep track of their fitness, weight goals and other statistics by using a platform at their feet.

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Today we have the Pokemon Go app, a game that isn’t being marketed as a fitness tool (yet) but rather a game that lures players outside to get moving with their cell phones in hand. This app, combining reality with virtual reality, is not played indoors on a TV or in an arcade, because it is mobile! Pokemon Go gets families and people of all ages out of their homes and into the fresh air! So what is it with electronic games and fitness that when mixed together keep people coming back for more exercise… I mean fun? How do you keep healthy habits (created through this type of play) going when the hype of the game fades?

As someone who was involved in a groundbreaking study of the use of video games for total body activity, I saw firsthand what an electronic game can do for its player’s health. Our study, led by Dr. Emily Murphy, specifically targeted children in West Virginia, a state that is consistently among the top three in the country for obesity. Our study showed that DDR can have a long-term health and financial impact on its players by reducing obesity levels and instilling better lifestyle habits at an impressionable age. Specifically, we demonstrated that DDR is an effective tool in combating obesity, inactivity, and subsequent health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.

The University of Calgary Exergaming Research Centre and the American Council on Exercise, also state that “exergaming” works as a fitness tool. Their studies were focused upon adults. According to WebMD, “When used at intermediate or high intensity, exergaming can indeed improve fitness ― though some exercise games make that easier than others. A moderate 3 mph walk burns about 4 calories a minute, or 120 calories per half hour.” The good thing is that these “exergames” are getting people up and moving. However, the hard part is keeping the attention of the player long enough to make this movement a healthy habit.

At least with games like Pokemon Go, it is bringing families together to participate. I have read countless stories of parents saying that they are their child’s eyes and ears for safety while playing the game and they allow their child to follow the map (another great learning experience with this game)! Other parents have praised the game saying they haven’t seen their child want to be outside this much in a long time and they are walking and running around more than ever! All great things!

When the fad or novelty of the game fade, it is up to the parents to keep the momentum going for joyful activity and healthy habits in their children. Maybe it is finding a new game that doesn’t involve any electronics, or just ask children to create something totally new. Try encouraging your family to eat healthy meals together while talking about the new habits you are creating as a family. Even if the fun of the game fades away, still try to encourage your family to get outside and get moving. Playing with your children makes memories that last a lifetime. And don’t forget, Choosy has plenty of songs and activities for you that encourage active play (indoors and outdoors)!

Have you and your family jumped on the Pokemon Go app craze? Have you noticed a difference in activity for your children? What else are you doing to encourage healthy habits and the continuation of moving forward with your family’s newfound love of getting outside and exercising?