Video Games are Healthy
Finally some good press for video games. Hey, they aren't all about shooting and pillaging anymore, did you know?
The State of West Virginia completed a one year project to get obese children into shape using a game called Dance Dance Revolution which they had to play at home 5 times per week. The game involves listening to a song and following along to choreographed steps by stomping on a matching set of foot pads. It's sort of like a hopscotch-dance competition.
This attempt to improve children's health was a considerable success. Most kids in the test group did not lose weight over the 24-week period whereas kids in the control group continued to gain: about 6 pounds each in that same time period. The predicted weight gain for the test group kids appears to have been "halted". I'm sure there are a number of other factors for why the dancing kids did not actually lose weight: increase in muscle mass, increase in appetite leading to increased caloric consumption to name a couple. But, let's not forget that it's not all about numbers on the scale.
The really good news is that the kids showed an increase in aerobic ability and arterial function, as well as gaining some self-confidence in the process. Not only that, they had fun doing it. Aw...
Interesting Sidenote: At Burning Man 2006, I saw a version of this game called Dance Dance Immolation which required the player to don a fire-proof suit and dance the correct steps or he or she would be fired at with a flameshooter. I guess you have to understand Burning Man to appreciate this, but here's a link to a video of "DDI" for those of you with an open mind.
UPDATE: The newest video game console that requires players to "get physical" is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii remote (Wiimote) moves in 3-D to simulate gameplay and so playing tennis involves a lot of arm-swinging. This is making healthy subjects out of the Wii console owners and just last week, Reuters reported: "After six weeks and 21 hours of total game play on Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s new game console, Philadelphia resident Mickey DeLorenzo is nine pounds lighter and making a splash with his new svelte self." Go Game Geeks, Go!!