Exergaming has extra positive effects

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The last thing on most people’s mind during the winter is exercise.  As the temperature drops, so does the desire to make the jog over to the Smith Fieldhouse. Several BYU students are finding their exercise niche not out in the cold, but in the comfort of their homes.

Exergaming, or playing video games to exercise, has gained popularity with the development of new video games for interactive gaming systems such as the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect. Many of these games serve as an effective replacement for a normal cardiovascular workout without feeling like one.

Photo: Morgan Van Wagoner
Whitney Palancia braves the cold in her flip-flops. (Morgan Van Wagoner)

“I think it’s a fun way to exercise that gets your mind off the fact that you’re actually exercising, which is great for people like me,” said Kara Kellett, an illustration major.

Kellett bought a Wii so she could play her favorite game, Just Dance.

“I’ve been a dancer through most of my life, and the workout I get from Just Dance is actually pretty comparable! If you’re continually playing all the songs, it’ll give you a cardio workout for sure.”

Studies regarding exergaming produce optimistic results. Research for better health, from a company called Alterum, found that the energy expenditure used while exergaming can be similar to skipping, walking or jogging on a treadmill. The research suggests that the physical activity achieved during exergaming is enough to contribute to 60 minutes of daily exercise, which is recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

High-intensity exergames have been proven to promote weight loss in players participating in only 30 minutes of game play a day.

When Dance Dance Revolution was released in 1998 as one of the first games involving body movement, players were pleasantly surprised to discover that their gaming was causing them to lose weight.

Just like any other workout, you get what you put into it.

Blake Cowan, an employee of Y be Fit, believes exergaming can be an effective tool.

“If people don’t take them seriously, then they don’t see results,” Cowan said. “But If someone took it seriously, it could produce results, just maybe not as fast as normal exercise.”

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, playing these games “encompasses the cognitive processes necessary to override automatic responses, and resolve conflict between goal-oriented and impulsive behavior.”

Exergaming is also being used to overcome health obstacles in senior citizens. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 14 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 exercise regularly. That estimate drops to just 4 percent once adults reach age 75.

Cay Anderson-Hanley, an assistant professor at Union College, wanted to discover ways to inspire seniors to work out more. She conducted an experiment involving exergaming. The tests consisted of 102 senior citizens who were split into two groups. The first group participated in cybercycling, while the other participated in normal exercise activities.  The cybercylcing group enjoyed the activity, but the effects the games had on them were even more pleasing.

After three months of cybercycling for 45 minutes a day, five days a week, the participants in the cybercycling group experienced a 23 percent reduction in mild cognitive impairment when compared to the mental benefits experienced by the normal exercise group.

As the temperature drops, exergaming offers a warm and fun option for staying fit. Although few may play for the sole purpose of exercise, many will find themselves pleasantly surprised by the results.

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