Saturday, January 21

Exergaming could be the answer to shifting those extra seasonal pounds

The term couch potato was once reserved for anybody who favoured a life spent in the living

Then the games console was invented. Children replaced playgrounds with PlayStations, adults were racing virtual sports cars rather than each other, and a brand new type of potato was born: the gamer.
room over one in the great outdoors.

With this came questions. How would it impact on the health of the future generation? And if watching that episode of Friends for the 50th time had the power to keep potatoes on the couch and away from the gym, what damage could an Xbox do?

It is estimated that eight out of ten households in the UK now own a gaming console, but while the popularity of the industry has surged, so too have fears over rising obesity levels. Not least in Scotland, where between 1995 and 2010 the proportion of adults aged 16 to 64 who were overweight or obese (BMI of 25 or more) increased from 52.4 per cent to 63.3 per cent.

Yet just as it seemed likely that the country’s obesity crisis was going to be blamed on the latest version of Crash Bandicoot, there came an interesting development. Exercise gaming, pioneered by the Nintendo Wii in 2006, was born. Picking up on the popularity of sports games, Wii encouraged people to join in with the activities on screen, increasing exercise levels while capitalising on the popularity of the gaming culture.

The Wii enables players to participate in a wide variety of sports, from bowling to tennis and water skiing, all from the comfort of the living room. But has gaming evolved into something truly positive for fitness?

Exergaming is now so ubiquitous, every leading console is promoting its own fitness game. And it is not difficult to understand the appeal. A combination of busy lifestyles and a fascination with new technology mean the concept of exercising at home is unquestionably viable. One man who understands the appeal more than most is the CEO of Gamercize, Richard Coshott. “I came across the concept of gaming exercise one school summer holiday on a particularly pleasant day, when I suggested to my sons that we play football in the garden. At the time they were playing FIFA on the PlayStation, and would rather carry on in the World Cup than have a kick-about in the garden. When I insisted they put down the controller and play outside, I realised how out of condition they were from a ‘play’ regime of electronic sports and decided I needed to do something”.

Seeing his sons’ reaction to exercise gaming encouraged Coshott to create Gamercize, a company that markets interactive exercise products to work alongside Xbox, PlayStation and Wii. He explains, “The exercise needed to power the controller becomes automatic and unnoticeable to the brain, making the exercise element sustainable, which leads to real health benefits such as weight control, lower resting heart rate and improved physical co-ordination.”

Promoters are going out of their way to prove exergaming has real health benefits, yet there are still some significant concerns. Coshott admits the contactless nature of the workout increases the risk of injury, while the lack of encouragement from a virtual trainer may lead to a dip in enthusiasm. Furthermore, a study by the medical journal Paediatrics found the average session on Wii boxing, for example, amounted to the same amount of exercise as moderate walking. So perhaps it’s a bit too soon to be burning our gym membership cards.

Interestingly, Health Scotland has reported that during the week, boys spend an average of 31 minutes a day playing games consoles. If those 31 minutes were spent in active gaming, it could go some way to meeting the national guidelines for physical activity. After all, even 31 minutes of moderate walking, aka Wii boxing, is better than sitting still; and if gaming is as popular as the statistics suggest, exercise gaming could be considered a productive way to help achieve a national goal.

Is exergaming deterring people from attending the gym? Though the year on year statistics suggest that, on average, gym memberships fell 16 per cent last year, the likes of David Lloyd Leisure seem untroubled.

Group health and fitness manager Rob Beale says, “Gaming has perhaps attracted a new type of exerciser, but being part of a health club is an entirely different offering, so I don’t expect this to have any negative effects.”

Now, it seems the future of fitness is choice. Game on!!

1 comment:

Ronnel Sahagun said...

for me all the gaming activity is very attractive . that's all !