Sunday, May 19
Exergaming is by definition "exercise". Combining an exercise component with a video game component. Is it a crazy question to ask if it improves health? Maybe so, and that's not just a difficult question to ask of exergaming, as "health benefits" include complex sets of interactions and variables. In fact it's a crazy question to ask, like "does eating cheerios make your smarter".
Stepping aside from the technology for one moment, consider swimming as a mechanism for improving public health. Swimming is certainly great exercise, working all muscle groups, great cardio and very social too. On the face of it swimming is all set up to improve health. in practice, however, it does not for the majority of the public. Research has shown calorie intake after a session of swimming far outweighs the calories burnt during the session. People get the munchies after a swim.
Equally there's theories, with some solid research backing, that show in the normal course of events introducing a dedicated session of exercise elicits a reduction in pre-existing physical activity. Essentially some unexplained factor compensates for a bout of activity to maintain the bodies average energy expenditure.
Can a study in laboratory conditions "prove" health benefits for any exercise, let alone exergaming? No. What can be proved, to a degree, is energy expenditure levels and activity intensity. Whilst bigger numbers here would seem what we want to see, they only tell part of the story. The new study recommends using active videogaming ('exergaming') to improve children's health, it cannot be definitive.
Not all exergames are equal and not all people enjoy the same games, which is the reason why you may have seen research studies published claiming the opposite findings. We can't prove health benefits, but we can derive the factors that would make exercise sustainable and practical. For most people's money, the subject of the latest study; Kinect, doesn't make the grade in practicality or sustainability.
At Games for Health we all tried out Kinect table tennis. We had the advantage of a huge open area and didn't have to put the coffee table on eBay to make room to play but still the control recognition was so poor it was almost laughable and the game so unplayable it drove us crazy.
There's a reason video games are so popular, because they are not square pegs in round holes. There's a game to suit everyone and to tap into that sustainability is really the only way to get to health benefits. This approach is exactly what makes Gamercize the only true exergame system that's tailored to everyone's needs!