Having trouble getting your kids off of the couch and outdoors for some exercise? These days kids prefer sitting in front of the television or a computer screen playing video and electronic games than running and playing outdoor games. But there’s hope even for kids who are glued to a computer or television screen. Some video and electronic games can actually be good for them, especially if you choose the new breed of interactive entertainment called “exergames”.
What Are Exergames?
Exergames are electronic and video-based games that simulate the movements involved in playing sports. Kids who play these interactive games jog in place, jump around, dance and do boxing moves that gets their heart rate up enough to have positive health benefits. Kids can play these games at various intensities, which further challenge them as they become more aerobically fit.
Are Exergames Good Exercise for Children?
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts put exergames to the test to see how they worked as exercise for children. They measured energy expenditure as children of middle-school age played a variety of different sports-related interactive games. Surprisingly, playing these games boosted their total energy expenditure by four to eight times. When they compared it to treadmill walking using a technique called indirect calorimetry, four of the six exergames outperformed treadmill walking at a pace of 3.0 miles per hour. Even better, exergames are an exercise for children they enjoy. Who can argue with that?
In this study, boys and girls differed in the types of exergames they enjoyed playing. Boys preferred the boxing interactive game, while girls favored the dancing-themed ones. To kids, exergames feel more like fun than they do exercise. Fortunately, girls and boys agree on one thing. They both enjoy playing these physically challenging games. Of course, clinicians point out to be effective kids have to do them consistently for long enough periods of time. Some kids lose interest if they only have a few games to play. Fortunately, manufacturers are coming out with even more varieties of these active games to keep kids motivated and entertained.
Exergames are a good exercise for children since in this study they increased heart rate into the aerobic zone. On the other hand, they shouldn’t take the place of outdoor exercise. When children play outdoors, they absorb vitamin D from sunlight. The importance of having adequate vitamin D levels to avoid health problems has been increasingly emphasized. One study showed that 70% of kids have inadequate levels of vitamin D, a situation that increases their risk for obesity, asthma, allergies, bone disease and heart disease later in life. One explanation for the vitamin D crisis among kids is the number of children who spend time indoors playing video games.
Exergames: Good Exercise for Kids
If your kids enjoy exergames, encourage them to play them more often, but don’t use it as a substitute for outdoor activity. Be sure they get fresh and sunshine to help keep their vitamin D levels normal. Exergames are a good alternative for kids who like to spend time in front of a computer or television screen, but they still need outdoor playtime.
CBS News. “Alarm Bells over Vitamin D Levels in Children”
Family Practice News. April 15, 2011. Page 44.