February 13, 2007 - A recent study conducted by the International Sports Sciences Association into the health effects of videogame playing has turned up some surprising results regarding the future of so-called "exergaming." While in the past, authorities such as the ISSA might have blamed videogames for contributing to childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes, the implementation of new technologies has the ISSA beaming.
New gaming trends, such as the Nintendo Wii and Dance Dance Revolution, may be changing the way fitness professionals think about gaming in general. These new innovations in the industry just might help to get gamers to live more active lifestyles. For this study, the ISSA approached several of its members to find out their opinions on this new direction for the gaming industry. The ISSA tapped into its supply of educated fitness professionals to research the potential health benefits of movement-based videogames.
"Exertainment and home video consoles are the wave of the future," asserted Dr. Josh Trout, Professor of Kinesiology at California State University Chico, and a specialist in video game technology and exercise movement. "Exergaming can provide excellent health benefits, but so can a Stairmaster, lifecycle or treadmill, if you do it. If a person has chosen a sedentary lifestyle, there is not much a new technology is going to do for them. On that note, exergaming, and exertainment, is an excellent way for getting kids hooked on physical activity, producing good exercise habits that can last their lifetime."
While the Nintendo Wii is doing its part to get gamers off of their couches and into a state of activity, concerns were raised by several trainers that the physical intensity of playing the Wii is lower than necessary to substantially affect gamers' fitness levels. However, many fitness professionals, such as Dr. Thomas Fahey from the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at California State University Chico, disagree.
"Most benefits of physical activity occur when progressing from sedentary to moderately active," emphasized Dr. Fahey. "So, even though 'exertainment' may not produce high levels of fitness, it promotes physical activity and can help people meet the physical activity recommendations of the Surgeon General, USDA 2005 report, and the new 2007 ACSM exercise guidelines that will be released in February. Exertainment will promote metabolic health. Moderate intensity exercise reduces insulin resistance, promotes sodium-potassium pump activity, burns some calories, and promotes nitric oxide production. It also has positive effects on immunity and builds resistance to free radicals."
Dr. Fahey is not alone in this belief, however. Nichole Snow, an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, commented: "The Nintendo Wii will show benefits for everyone. Whether you can sit down for the game or you have to be standing, it involves movement. The best part is its just fun - for everyone. Deconditioned and obese individuals will find it fun to play and gain aerobic movement out of the games. Seniors can enjoy gentle movements of bowling and golfing. Youth become a part of the game and don't just turn into vegetables in front of the TV. Everyone can burn some calories and learn some good health habits from Nintendo Wii's fitness, and the system is just too hard to pass up when watching anyone play."
While it is certainly good to hear fitness professionals touting the health benefits of the Wii, it hardly seems like this survey was conducted scientifically. Much of the findings were based on speculation and hearsay, rather than empirical results. Still, we can't help but be impressed with the ISSA's conclusions. Now, if you'll excuse us, it's time for some good, old-fashioned "exertainment."