News Article

Feature: Active Gaming is Here To Stay And is Helping People Get Fit

Posted by Andy Green

Games like Wii Fit U can make a big difference to people's lives

Many people in the world claim video games are partially to blame for rising obesity levels, with individuals disregarding physical exercise in favour of a round of Mario Kart or a bout of Call of Duty, but there are doctors and scientists out there who say playing active games such as Wii Fit can certainly help keep people healthy.

Gaming has changed a lot over the last few years, with more people getting into it than ever before. For example, some individuals who had never really played games before were attracted to the Wii and its range of movement-based games that anyone could play. Wii Sports is a game that resonated well with players of all abilities, and soon enough living rooms became more about standing up and moving around. Before long people started implementing these games into their daily lives to boost their activity levels.

Speaking to U-T San Diego, Dr Michael Moreno, a primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente, said in a perfect world "outdoor activity is best, but anything that promotes movement is beneficial",

I don’t think it’s about pills, pullups or pushups. It’s about movement, not exercise.

He pointed to active video games and said titles like Wii Fit provide fantastic starting points for a more active life, as they offer people fun games they are interested in while promoting a full range of motion. Essentially, people can have a good time playing the games and get a great workout while they're at it.

There have been a number of studies suggesting that these games get kids and adults motivated to get off the couch and start moving, Video gaming is a platform for a more vigorous life.

Dr Julie A. Ellner, the medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Program at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, told the publication there is a distinct correlation between playing games and adult weight loss:

Video games are helpful for parents with small children at home, have childcare issues, and must work around their schedules, so they work out at home.

There are also those who are aged between 40 and 60 who need toning programs and use things like Wii Fit to give them that opportunity in their own living room, while anyone who struggles to get out of the house can inject more movement into their lives using the software. Of course, gym environments can be daunting places for those who want to tone up or lose a few pounds so playing fitness-based and other active games can give them the exercise they want, but with nobody else around.

Ellner observed how Wii Fit brings in a personal trainer that keeps you on track, while the system retains a record of things like balance and weight loss or gain. She recommends individuals use games that promote cardio and toning and Wii Fit and the upcoming Wii Fit U come complete with a range of exercise programmes that work on several things. For example, using yoga, players can improve their flexibility and balance, while the strength training options allow you to tone up the key areas you want to work on.

In regards to children, these active video games have been found to give a slight boost to physical activity levels at home.

Indeed, an Australian study published in July by BMJ Open, as reported by WebMD, found replacing passive games with active ones affected the activity levels of children aged 10 to 12 in a positive way.

The test saw participants go without all gaming for eight weeks (the poor souls), followed by eight weeks of being allowed to play passive games and then eight weeks of active games.

Physical activity levels didn't vary a whole lot during the 24 weeks, though during the final eight-week period the children's daily activity levels increased by around three minutes, while sedentary time dropped by just over six minutes. This may sound small but the researchers said these slight increases in activity are in fact significant in light of the rapidly increasing levels of exposure youngsters are having with electronics and technology:

While our study focused on the home setting, school offers another opportunity for more active technologies such as sit-stand desks or active-input electronic media as part of lessons.

Many local authorities around the world are looking for innovative ways to keep children fit and healthy and implementing active games could help youngsters improve their lives while having fun.

This is already happening in some US cities and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance partnered with Ubisoft earlier this year to develop a curriculum using the publisher's Just Dance titles in elementary, middle and high schools across the country.

Lesson plans were integrated into the existing programmes during the Fall 2012 semester and saw more than 1,200 students from 16 states get their groove on. Some 96.8 percent of teachers at the various schools said they believe Just Dance has the potential to improve the fitness levels of their students, while 93.5 percent of them plan to continue using it as part of the curriculum.

The students who took part reached an average of 56 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity using Just Dance during a 90-minute class. Importantly, over 90 percent of the students in the pilot scheme liked or strongly liked playing the game. This means they'll have fun, be social and improve their fitness all at the same time.

Playing more active titles such as Just Dance 2014 and the upcoming Wii Fit U and Wii Sports Club, means people are able to become more active while simultaneously enjoying themselves. Gaming is no longer exclusively played with a controller that requires no movements further than your fingers and thumbs, as the Wii proved so successfully in 2006.

Even the more "traditional" games that include some form of motion controls seem to promote activity; it would certainly be interesting to know how many calories you can burn off playing Donkey Kong Country Returns for an hour, what with all the ground pounding and rolling you can do when playing with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk — we're willing to bet it's more than it was when Rare's Donkey Kong Country emerged on the Super NES in 1994.

So whether it's boxing on Wii Sports, lunging on Wii Fit U or throwing some shapes on Just Dance 2014, active games are here to stay and they're helping millions of people get a bit more movement into their lives, which is vital in the quest to stay fit and healthy.

[via utsandiego.com, webmd.com, blog.ubi.com]

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User Comments (29)

DrKarl

#1

DrKarl said:

I have high hopes for Wii Fit U, and the new activity meter. The first two missed the mark in our household.

Mahe

#2

Mahe said:

The new Activity meter in Wii Fit U is an interesting addition. Just Dance is also constantly fun. These alone can't replace proper exercise, but you can have fun and maybe get a bit healthier at the same time, so they're really win-win propositions.

Haywired

#3

Haywired said:

These types of motion control/fitness games have always existed though. Be it Bandai's NES Power Pad, Dance Dance Revolution, PS2 EyeToy, etc. I'm sure people know this of course, it's just that usually the insinuation with these sorts of pieces is "Nintendo started it with the Wii".

chiefeagle02

#4

chiefeagle02 said:

Kind of makes me wish I hadn't sold my copy of Dance Dance Revolution (then again, the size of my current apartment would have made playing it impractical).

unrandomsam

#5

unrandomsam said:

Wii Punchout (With Balance Board) I think is probably the best. (Someone doing that every day for a few hours will get enough exercise from it).

More tiring for me playing that for an hour (Maybe even half an hour) than an hour in the gym and 50 lengths (25m pool).

Squashie

#6

Squashie said:

I've really been enjoying Just Dance 2014 recently, an I'm pretty excited for Wii Fit U and Wii Sports Club. I really do love a bit of active gaming, I find it alot more engaging than just siting down with a controller.

Emblem

#7

Emblem said:

I find active gaming very useful, i like to keep relatively fit but i hate going gym and its getting cold out so Wii U fit is coming at the perfect time.

Rawk_Hawk

#8

Rawk_Hawk said:

I like Wii fit and Wii Sports/Resort. It provides me a much needed change of pace from traditional video games.

efaulk84

#9

efaulk84 said:

I had poor motor skills as a kid. I wish that something like Wii Fit was around when I had to do Physical Therapy. It would make it fun.

The_Fox

#10

The_Fox said:

Being a physical trainer I can respect that these types of games help people that aren't likely to get in a proper amount of exercise for whatever reason. What worries me is that I sometimes see people treating these as a a substitute for a normal workout schedule instead of using it as a supplemental program.

DarkLloyd

#11

DarkLloyd said:

Seems cool but i dont think i would get enough out of it compared to what i do in the gym.

seems more geared to just dropping pounds then actually shaping your body

unrandomsam

#12

unrandomsam said:

Problem I have with going to the gym is if you ever need to not go for whatever reason you feel worse than you ever did prior to starting. (At least I get a chemical type depression). For me anyway swimming doesn't do that (Even though I like it less).

Squiggle55

#14

Squiggle55 said:

I liked Wii Fit very much, I think it appeals partly to my love of being active, but probably even more so to my addictive personality. Anything that gives me a goal and graphs and rewards you for doing something every day is a winner to me. I hope Wii Fit U improves on these features and thinks of more clever ways to reward people for consistency to keep it fun for a long time.

rjejr

#16

rjejr said:

My kids play a lot of video games, and one of the good things about it is that they never sit down. I don't know why, they just jump around alot while they're playing. They'll be playing SSBB for an hour and come upstairs soaked in sweat. IT's kind of funny to watch, except then I catch watch the tv b/c they are jumping in front of me. Good thin they are growing up in an age of wireless controllers.

And no, I dont give them too much sugar, and they dont drink soda. I just think its unbridled brotherly competition and genuine excitement.

Tuurtledove

#17

Tuurtledove said:

Andy, Thank you so much for the feature

Certainly highlights a few specific points in our current society. We've come so far technologically that fitness often doesn't even appear in our lives unless we actively pursue it. And I almost feel it's these forms of living room fitness games that really help ease people into seeking out greater levels, it almost acts as a form of gateway into greater fitness awareness

madness

#19

madness said:

Hear Wii fit broad is helping people with M/S. So anything that help people have a better life is all ways good..

GN004Nadleeh

#20

GN004Nadleeh said:

but there have already been studies that show it does nothing, like brain age says its training your brain but all you are doing is playing puzzles, if something like that really worked it would be in hospitals and important places. i used to think motion and other type of game play was fun till i realized its only a new anti pirate concept with nintendo thinking on one will emulate their systems if the controls are weird, guess they were wrong and now its just annoying that all the info on the pause screen is now only on the handheld screen

GamerJunkie

#21

GamerJunkie said:

What a joke.... If these people actually went and did any real exercise they would get fit much faster and it would be much better than this. I mean this is good maybe for a really old person or somebody that is disabled and can't do real exercise or even as a bonus lil work out on top of real exercise(on your off day not doing your regular routine).

Nintendo just uses this gimmick to gain customers and the sad thing is that think they are really exercising. This is in no way enough to get a person in shape. The only people that lost weight using this are people that drastically changed their diet and then played this too, so in reality it was the food change, not even the game, but whatever, let nintendo use more gimmicks... its all they do nowadays.

Drawdler

#22

Drawdler said:

I like the Wii Sports/Fit/Resort games. They're not a substitute for real exercise, but I enjoy the different pace they have from other games.

PendaGoddess

#23

PendaGoddess said:

As a Wii fitness expert, I can prove my claims that you can get a great workout using the Wii. I enjoyed reading the article. I'd like to add that the Wii gaming system will revolutionize the way we do fitness, just not yet. As a fitness professional of various group fitness arts, I have a great respect for the quality of this gaming console and the undiscovered gold mine of fitness activities that one console can offer groups, yes groups. Check out Wii Fitness Examiner on Facebook. Check out my videos on Youtube. Check out Virtual Fitness Wii FAB (For Absolute Beginners).

PendaGoddess

#24

PendaGoddess said:

@Tuurtledove So true. And it's safer than running off to the gym and taking a fitness class. The Wii games are intuitive and the Wii console is easy to use. If used properly, people of all types of fitness backgrounds can benefit. Another thing, it levels the playing field, so you don't necessarily have to have age groups. And seniors love the Wii. This is a huge and generally overlooked market by any fitness professional. And this goes for all Wii activity programs. Sticking a Wii in a room with no structure or program is not what you want to do, Trust me. Get trained. Play seriously.

PendaGoddess

#25

PendaGoddess said:

@GamerJunkie As a fitness professional, I was absolutely enraged when Wii Fit came out. You can hear me on my Virtual Fitness Wii FAB BlogTalk Radio show bashing it before I even tried it,. But I had to eat my words. Wii Fit Plus is an amazing, inventive and ever-evolving fitness journey for me. I am now a leading expert (and probably only) Wii Fit Plus expert.

PendaGoddess

#26

PendaGoddess said:

@GN004Nadleeh Did you know that in Maine, psychiatrists can prescribed a patient a Wii gaming console? Probably not. Many are using the Wii console in hospitals, senior centers, rehabilitation clinics, etc. So there are those of us who believe that exergaming does work. Also, the quality and genius of the games Nintendo has created for the Wii are unparalleled. Go get Wii Music and play it for an hour. Experience the genius.

PendaGoddess

#27

PendaGoddess said:

@Squiggle55 I have been playing and studying new ways to play Wii Fit Plus for the past 6 years. Check out my articles on Examiner.com. National Wii Fitness Examiner and I post workouts on Youtube and Facebook Wii Fitness Examiner. I guarantee you you will discover new ways to play old games.

PendaGoddess

#28

PendaGoddess said:

@The_Fox Unfortunately you are not alone in that attitude. Most personal trainers pooh pooh the Wii and the various fitness games. But I have studied a number of games for a number of years, and this console will revolutionize the fitness industry. Exergaming is real and it's effective. What concerns me about exergaming is that people are underestimating what they are doing on the console so don't prepare and comport themselves accordingly. They don't play seriously, with form, technique, focus and grace.

PendaGoddess

#29

PendaGoddess said:

@chiefeagle02 I love DDR. It's one of my specialties and I can always find space to put a mat. Or I like to play without the mat. I also think DDR is a great group fitness tool, but most adults aren't familiar with it and only some kids are willing to DDR. But I'm going to change all that. I've developed a technique where I can teach anybody to DDR at expert in about an hour.

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