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Excellent Idea of the Day: Exergaming for Teens

Video games often get a bad rap, but a new Pediatrics journal study has found that exergames can help teens reach recommended physical activity levels.
/ Source: Discovery Channel

Video games often get a bad rap, but a new Pediatrics journal study has found that exergames can help teens reach recommended physical activity levels.

Current guidelines hold that youths should engage in about an hour a day of moderate or vigorous physical activity.

Playing games such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution can contribute toward that goal. They turn out to be particularly good for self-conscious gals.

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"Teenage exergamers -- people who play video games that require physical activity -- are most likely females who are stressed about their weight," study author Jennifer O’Loughlin of the University of Montreal's Department of Social and Preventative Medicine, was quoted as saying in a press release. "On average, they play two 50 minute sessions per week. As less than 15% of children and adolescents currently participate regularly in physical activity, we are pleased to report that exergaming can add to regular physical activity to attain physical activity guidelines."

O’Loughlin and her team examined the family backgrounds and videogame habits of 1,209 Montrealers between 14 and 19 years old. Teenagers and their parents completed surveys that covered subjects such as household income, drug use, body weight and education, to help prevent the portrait of gamers from being influenced by a particular socio-economic profile. The questionnaire also covered what games were played, where, for how long, with whom, and with what intensity.

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Wii Sports (68 precent of exergamers), Dance Dance Revolution (40 percent), Wii Fit Yoga (34 percent), and Boxing (Punchout; 15 percent) were the most popular exergames played at home, according to this particular study. WiiSports (26 percent) and Dance Dance Revolution (29 percent) were played most frequently at friends’ homes. Less than 1 percent of exergamers reported exergaming at school.While boys and male teens are usually more likely than females to play video games, teen gals have really been gravitating to exergames.

"Girls might be uncomfortable exercising at school because they feel judged and these games could be providing an alternative," O’Loughlin theorized. "On the other hand, there could be something about the kind of social interaction that exergaming provides that appeals to them."

She continued, "Factors such as competitions, new consoles, multiplayer modes, and contact with other players via the Internet could improve participation. Additionally, the feasibility of exergaming in community centers or at school should be tested."

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What causes exergaming to fizzle out? Boredom. So the researchers are looking into ways to keep participants interested, engaged and moving.

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