Video games like Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution can play an important role in getting kids off the couch and involved in physical activity. But are they a replacement for traditional exercise?
Definitely not, says Colleen Greene, M.A., wellness coordinator for MFit, the health promotion division of the University of Michigan Health System.
“Virtual gaming is no replacement for real exercise,” Greene notes. “It’s a place to start, though. Kids can have fun doing it, they can feel a little better about actually trying the sport or activity.”
A relatively recent addition to the video game universe, these games are interactive and can require as little activity as a swing of the wrist to play golf or tennis, or as much effort as an intense dance routine or the full punches in a virtual boxing match. Most of these games do not qualify as aerobic exercise, though they do require more activity than traditional video games.
“Real calories can be burned during virtual gaming, although some studies have recently shown that it may be 60 to 70 calories an hour,” Greene notes. “This is nowhere near what an actual game or sport should be, which is three to four times that amount.”
Greene doesn’t discourage the use of these games – indeed, she notes, they can help to improve kids’ confidence and hand-eye coordination.
“Active virtual gaming can have a role in a healthy lifestyle. It’s a place to start and have some fun. It’s a way to try something new in a non-threatening environment,” she says. “But really, you ought to get outside, give it a try and have some real fun.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that kids perform 60 minutes of physical activity on most days, preferably daily. The percentage of young people in the United States who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980.
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