Want to hula your way to health in your own living room? How about dancing, boxing, or biking your way to a better body? If you’ve got a video game console like the Kinect for Xbox 360, PlayStationMove, or the Wii Fit, you may be able to do just that.
The trend is called exergaming, short for “exercise games,” and it’s kicking the world of video game up a notch — literally. With kung fu, boxing, biking, and dance software, the goal of many of today’s popular video games is to get you off the couch and on the way to a pulse-pounding workout.
A moderate 3 mph walk burns about four calories a minute, or 120 calories per half hour. In that same half hour, a bowling exgergame can burn 117 calories, a golf exergame 93 calories, a baseball exergame 135 calories, a boxing exergame 215 calories, a dance exergame 159 calories.
However, do they work? The University of Calgary Exergaming Research Center, the American Council on Exercise, and the University of Massachusetts Department of Exercise and Health Sciences all offer a qualified yes. And there is a study going on focused on the impact of dance exergaming on overweight and obese teen girls.
Amanda Staiano, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, wants to find out if exergaming can become a new tool in the fight against childhood obesity. “We’ll be able to tell whether gaming actually affects their weight or their health,” she says. “We find, especially with African-American girls, that dance is a fun way to get together and oftentimes forget that they’re exercising because they just enjoy the dance and the movement.”
“Because it’s fun, it’ll help me stick to exercise,” says study participant and high school senior Tiffany Roberson. “I just want to feel healthier. I think it will help me in every aspect, like school and how I feel about myself.”
So what is there to work with? There are a few well-known players in the exercise game field:
- Kinect for Xbox 360: With multi- and single-player games that include boxing, volleyball, kung fu, track and field, soccer, and more, the Kinect is hands-free, using a sensor in the game console to track movement, then translate it into game play.
- PlayStation Move: Employing a camera and a motion controller remote, this gaming console offers exercise game titles for single and multi-player play, including beach volleyball, disc golf, archery, dance, table tennis, kickboxing, and more.
- Nintendo Wii Fit: Featuring multi- and single-player games, including skateboarding, hula, kung fu, skiing, dance games, and more, the Wii Fit uses a balance board and remote, both of which translate real life movement into game play.
Ernie Medina Jr., DrPH, a preventive care specialist and self-described “exergame evangelist,” says, “Instead of being stuck inside with a TV and a console, these games get you up and playing.”